Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education


Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Chair

Sherry Herron

Committee Chair School

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 2

Glenmore Shearer Jr.

Committee Member 2 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Angel Herring

Committee Member 5 School

Child and Family Studies


African Americans have been reported to have a more negative outlook on nature than people of other races. Much work has been done to explain this phenomenon through the lenses of social and environmental justice. However, most of this information pertains to adults, and little to no exploration has been done to understand how children could be affected. This lack of information creates a novel research topic. This study addressed the problem using a mixed method analysis to better understand both the narrative of the children and any generalizable conclusions to better understand their attitudes in a summer program titled “Helping Make Nature Natural for African American Urban Children.” This research was designed to address those attitudes using self-efficacy as a guide, and the information gathered was used to test the effectiveness to reduce the children’s fear or lack of desire to be in nature. Previous research has demonstrated that increasing a person’s self-efficacy can help to alleviate both fear and aversion by reducing the stress response.

During the four-week program, 22 campers ranging in age from four to eight years old were exposed to a program designed to slowly raise awareness of the environment around them while treating stressors on their terms. The five children aged four to five were not included as the study targeted children in Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage of Development. Nine parents of the 17 children in the study also completed a brief questionnaire to determine what attitudes they held about nature. Semi-structured interviews with two campers and 346 pieces of artwork from 17 eligible students were analyzed.

Results revealed that the parents had a significantly higher-than-expected level of comfort in nature (p = < 0.001). The children’s attitudes were closer to a negative outlook (p = .369). Interviews with two campers depicted a modest fear response. However, the fear response was reduced for these two and two others as revealed by a highly significant difference between the pre/post test scores (p = .01). Analysis of the artwork produced by 17 campers showed that the artifacts introduced in the storybooks persisted into the children’s future artwork. Finally, a McNemar’s analysis was used to determine whether a career component of the program featuring minority representation in science could change each camper’s choice of career. The change in career aspirations of the four was not significant (p = .500). Results revealed that the program reduced fear of nature in the four children who completed both pre and posttests but not their career aspirations, and it increased 17 children’s awareness of nature as revealed by their artwork.