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Experiencing nature in children’s summer camps: Affective, cognitive and behavioral consequences

Summary


Nature exposure, more so than environmental education, influences pro-environmental attitudes and behavioral intentions of summer camper

This study assessed the impact of direct nature experience during summer camps on participants’ environmental behaviors and the affective (emotional affinity toward nature) and cognitive (beliefs about conservation) factors underlying these behaviors.  This study took place in Spain and included four camps – two one-week religious camps based in nature without environmental education (EE), one two-week camp in nature with EE, and one, urban, two-week urban camp without EE as the control. The intent was to distinguish between the impact of spending time in nature per se vs. the combined effect of nature exposure plus educational program on changes in environmental behaviors and attitudes. Across the four camps, participants included 397 children (about 54% male) with an average age of 10.88 years (typically 8-13 years of age).  Children participating in the two-week EE camp primarily resided in urban areas, whereas all other participants were from smaller towns, villages or rural areas.  Participants were assumed to be from middle-class families based on camp fees.

Using the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) and Emotional Affinity towards Nature (EAN) scales previously adapted for children, the study found that there was a difference between the urban-based camp and nature-based camps in terms of children’s reported connection to nature, beliefs about conservation and their intent to carry out pro-environmental behaviors. However, there was no significant difference between the nature-based programs that included EE activities and those that did not. Additionally, this study found that both emotional and cognitive components of attitudes mediated the relationship between nature exposure and intentions around pro-environmental behavior. However, depending on the type of environmental behavior, children’s emotional connection to nature was more predictive of pro-environmental behavior than their understanding of why pro-environmental behaviors, such as recycling and resource conservation, are important.

 

 

Citation

Collado, S., Staats, H., Corraliza, J. A., (2013). Experiencing nature in children’s summer camps: Affective, cognitive and behavioral consequences. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 33, 37-44.

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