Major Department



College of Education


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Fall 2019

Honors Major Advisor

Laurie Croft

Thesis Mentor

Ted Neal


Current educational priorities are forcing students to stay inside to the detriment of students’ well-being. Research proves that outdoor education provides many positive benefits for students’ learning, health, and relationships. With this in mind, we set out to answer the question of how an outdoor education program in the Midwest affects student’s attitudes towards science, the outdoors, and sustainability. The School of the Wild is a week-long outdoor education program provided to every sixth-grade student in the Midwest school district. We created an instrument to discover participants’ changes in attitudes towards the outdoors, learning science, and sustainability. Students were given the pre-survey in January before they participated in the program, and the post-survey was administered anywhere from one to three weeks after their time at the School of the Wild. We then compared the pre- and post-survey results in terms of all students surveyed and in terms of their self-identified gender. Overall, the School of the Wild experience seemed to benefit boys more than girls. Boys had a more positive shift in attitudes. While girls began with more positive attitudes towards science and the outdoors, the School of the Wild experience did not seem to greatly impact their attitudes. Some limitations for this study include the fact that the results are not generalizable, we were not able to track individual responses, and that post-surveys should be sent to schools with the same amount of time after participation for the best comparison. Future research might explore the impact of the entire program, or subsections of the program, on different races, socioeconomic statuses, or ages. Given the benefits of outdoor education discovered in this study as well as others, it is imperative that we adjust our educational priorities to include outdoor education.


outdoor education, experiential learning, science education

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