David Szabla, Chris Unger
Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Department or Academic Unit
College of Professional Studies, Department of Education
education, special education, experiential, nature, needs, outdoor, special
Research suggests that many students learn best when teaching practices are outdoors, nature-based, and experiential. Meaningful outdoor experiences increase students' social and academic achievement and contribute to the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills Experiential and nature-based instruction in the outdoors has been shown to reduce poor behavior and increase academic achievement.
Despite the research, and perhaps due to increased accountability requirements and stagnant pedagogical practices, students continue to be taught by traditional means in traditional locations. Students enrolled in the Barnstable Horace Mann Charter School Intense Learning Center are no different in that they may benefit from experiential, nature-based, and outdoor education. These students have been diagnosed with autism, intellectual disabilities, neurological impairments, and combined deficits. As a result of multiple disabling conditions, combined with the pedagogical practices in place, students in the Barnstable Horace Mann Charter School Intense Learning Center are often unable to grasp facets of the curriculum and display poor behavior requiring physical interventions.
The purpose of the study was to determine the impact "Nature, Nurture, Knowledge", an outdoor, nature-based, experiential program had on the behavior of BHMCS Intense Learning Center students. The research study utilized a single subject approach in that each student participant was tracked individually. Five students participated in the study. Four boys and one girl, all enrolled in the Barnstable Horace Mann Charter School Intense Learning Center, engaged in the study over a three month period.
The methodology employed was that of a mixed methods approach. Student behavioral data was collected for analysis during and absent the treatment in an intervention-baseline-intervention format. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected over three periods of time. The first period was that of the intervention in which "Nature, Nurture, Knowledge" was applied, the second period, three weeks in which the intervention was removed, and finally, a third period of intervention to which "Nature, Nurture, Knowledge" was applied.
Data collected throughout the study demonstrated a varied response to the intervention. When the intervention was applied some of the students demonstrated marked improvements in behavior and affect while others resisted the program to the extent of non-participation. Data collected absent the intervention showed equally varied results between students. Overall, the key elements affecting the outcomes of the study may have been influenced by teacher participation and student attitude, nevertheless, the intervention serves as a model or pilot program for future use or study.
Lessons learned from the implementation of "Nature, Nurture, Knowledge" may be applied to future programming at BHMCS both within and outside of the ILC. In addition, readers may glean valuable information from the literature review and theoretical frame found within the Doctoral Project Report and formulate future interventions for students with low-incidence, high-intensity special education needs.
Kara Marie Peterson
Peterson, Kara Marie, "Nature, nurture, knowledge: the promise of experiential learning for students with special needs" (2011). Education Doctoral Theses. Paper 12. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20002320
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