Early childhood educators’ use of natural outdoor settings as learning environments: an exploratory study of beliefs, practices, and barriers

Research
TitleEarly childhood educators’ use of natural outdoor settings as learning environments: an exploratory study of beliefs, practices, and barriers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsErnst, J
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Volume20
Issue6
Pagination735 - 752
Date Published2014/11/02/
ISBN Number1350-4622
Keywordsbeliefs, early childhood, natural settings, practices, preschool
AbstractIn efforts to encourage use of natural outdoor settings as learning environments within early childhood education, survey research was conducted with 46 early childhood educators from northern Minnesota (United States) to explore their beliefs and practices regarding natural outdoor settings, as well investigate predictors of and barriers to the educational use of these settings. Of the beliefs measured, only two were significantly related to frequency of use of natural outdoor settings: belief regarding difficulty in using natural outdoor settings and belief regarding their relationship to nature. The strongest predictor of use was belief regarding difficulty in using natural outdoor settings, accounting for 67.7% of the variance in the regression model. Results indicate primary barriers to be lack of walking access to natural outdoor settings, lack of time, winter weather, and safety concerns. These findings suggest efforts to increase early childhood educators’ use of natural outdoor settings should not focus on influencing their beliefs about the value of using natural outdoor settings in early childhood education, but instead on reducing barriers, thereby making the use of these settings seem more feasible.
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2013.833596