Nature's Classroom: An Ethnographic Case Study of Environmental Education
Author(s)Owens, Dorothea Jody
KeywordsAmerican cultural values
Arts and Humanities
Social and Cultural Anthropology
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AbstractNATURE'S CLASSROOM: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC CASE STUDY OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION DOROTHEA JODY OWENS ABSTRACT This ethnographic case study examines the dynamic relationship between culture and environmental education within the context of a specific Florida-based public education program. The School District of Hillsborough County (SDHC) offers the program through a three-day field trip to the study site, Nature's Classroom, and accompanying classroom curriculum. The site is located in Thonotosassa on the Hillsborough River, and serves approximately 13,500 to 15,000 sixth grade students annually. The key purpose of the research was to explore public education in a local setting as a vehicle for the transfer and acquisition of cultural knowledge, values, beliefs, and attitudes related to the environment. My primary research question is as follows: What role do American cultural values play in the public education system, as demonstrated in environmental education at Nature's Classroom? Factors that guided data collection include the sociocultural and historical context, the field site itself, curriculum development and content, delivery of the curriculum to students, student outcomes, and additional or external factors that could potentially influence outcomes. This dissertation explores the six factors using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods for data collection and analysis. Methods include participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and archival document reviews. Results indicate that environmental education at this site has evolved in tandem with broader sociocultural trends in environmentalism, anthropology, and environmental education. Students show positive gains in knowledge and skills related to the environment.