2024 journal article

Nature or the outdoors? Understanding the power of language in elementary students’ self-reported connection to nature

Environmental Education Research.

UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
4. Quality Education (OpenAlex)
Source: ORCID
Added: February 16, 2024

Many previous studies have measured elementary-aged students’ connection to nature (CTN), but few have explicitly considered how the use of different terminology (e.g. ‘nature’ versus ‘the outdoors’) can influence those connections. We utilized a quasi-experimental design to test for differences in affective and self-reported connections to nature among diverse groups of fourth and fifth grade students from two elementary schools in Wake County, North Carolina. We used Mann–Whitney U tests to compare these outcomes between two versions of a survey, one using the word ‘nature’ (n = 112) and one using the word ‘outdoors’ (n = 113), for (1) the whole sample (n = 225) (2) between boys and girls, and (3) between students of color and white students. Self-reported CTN did not vary significantly based on terminology used, but we did find some differences in levels of emotional affinity that students associated with each term. Our results suggest that the differences in which young audiences perceive the terms ‘nature’ versus ‘outdoors’ are nuanced and may offer insight into how language about the environment may invoke different emotions among children.