Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Busk

Second Advisor

Kevin Oh

Third Advisor

Patricia Mitchell


The purpose of this research was to investigate to what extent an immersive-field-study experience influenced fifth-grade students’ connection to nature. Two instruments were used to collect data: Connection to Nature Index (CNI) obtained pre- and postfield study and students’ field journals with prompts.

The coding of the journals was based on the four components of CNI: Enjoyment of Nature, Empathy for Creatures, Sense of Oneness, and Sense of Responsibility. These components were built on the three basic components of nature connectedness described by Schultz (2002) as “cognitive (connectedness), affective (caring), and behavioral (commitment)” (p. 61).

Data were gathered from 317 fifth-grade students from 12 separate classes in three public schools from one county in Northern California who were scheduled to spend 4 days in an immersive-field-study program at Walker Creek Ranch during three different timeframes: February, April, and June. The research questions addressed how students’ connection to nature changed pre- and postparticipation in the immersive-field-study program.

Both quantitative and qualitative data indicated that an immersive-field-study experience is useful for increasing students’ connection to nature, but only if the participant comes away with a positive experience of nature.

Although not the intent of this research, the most revealing finding was that the weather conditions had an influence on developing nature connectedness in fifth-grade students. Students who participated in February experienced inclement weather that forced an early end to the field study and changes in the usual activities like the campfire. These students also had lower ratings, on average, on post-CNI than on pre-CNI. The weather for students who attended the field trips in April and June was better, and their post-CNI ratings were higher, on average, than their pre-CNI scores. Students who attended in June had the sunniest and warmest weather and had the highest rating, on average, on their post-CNI.

The weather influenced the breadth and depth of outdoor activities in which students were able to participate. The most popular activity was solo hiking. Students journaled that the activities that presented challenges they could overcome, such as solo hiking, gave them the greatest sense of accomplishment and connection to nature.

Available for download on Friday, July 19, 2024

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