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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Environmental Education

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Myers, Gene (O. Gene)

Second Advisor

Stanger, Nicholas

Third Advisor

Hughes, Eileen, 1951-


Extensive research supports the benefits of nature exploration in children’s lives. Research also suggests, however, that low-income families and other historically marginalized groups experience multiple barriers to accessing green spaces. In an attempt to counteract this inequality, a needs assessment was performed to understand the challenges and barriers public preschool providers face in regularly leading their children in nature exploration. The target audience of this evaluation was Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program [ECEAP] teachers and parents. Along with measuring the challenges and barriers at these centers in regard to nature exploration, this evaluation assessed the resources and assistance needed to support the Head Start and ECEAP community’s environmental education interests. Informed by common worlds framework and theory supporting nature and child development, a thematic analysis of interviews with Head Start and ECEAP teachers and parents suggests a need to increase the amount of daily outdoor play and nature exploration within Head Start and ECEAP centers. Results of this evaluation also suggest a need to address safety and liability concerns, lack of weather appropriate outdoor clothing, limited play yard features, and access, or perceived access, to natural areas. Future efforts to encourage opportunities for nature exploration in public preschools should incorporate professional development, parent outreach, and culturally sustaining pedagogies. The findings of this evaluation may be used to guide program improvement and development that supports and incorporates routine nature exploration into the Head Start and ECEAP curriculum.




Early Childhood, Preschool, Needs Assessment, Evaluation, Nature exploration, Nature-based curriculum


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subjects – Names (LCNAF)

Head Start/Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (Bellingham, Wash.)

Subject – LCSH

Environmental education--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Nature study--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Outdoor recreation for children--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Low-income students--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Minorities--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Preschool children--Environmental aspects--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Curriculum planning--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)




masters theses




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