Preservice early childhood educators' perceptions of outdoor settings as learning environments

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In the context of encouraging the use of natural settings for educational experiences with young children, an exploratory study using survey research and photographs of outdoor settings was conducted to understand how preservice early childhood educators perceive these settings and what educational opportunities, motivations, and barriers they associate with them. Based on the results of 110 participants, this study suggests preservice early childhood educators perceive parks as the most conducive outdoor setting for achieving educational outcomes, specifically structured learning about nature, and that they are more inclined to use maintained outdoor settings than natural outdoor settings. The strongest predictors of intention to use natural outdoor settings were perceived difficulty in using natural settings, participants' level of nature relatedness, and the degree to which they agreed that experiences in nature were important for young children's health and wellness. Barriers to address include perceived lack of access to natural settings and safety concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-664
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • early childhood education
  • landscape preference
  • natural settings
  • nature relatedness
  • preservice


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