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Intersections between place-responsive outdoor education and environmental action: Transforming secondary students' ethic of care into action.

There has been growing concern expressed about the disconnection of people, and particularly young people, from nature. This detachment from the natural world is visible through media and movies with an increased reference to the urban, human-made environment since the 1950’s. Additionally, it is observable in our overuse of the Earth's resources and slow change to more sustainable behaviour. The cost of this disconnection from nature is on our physical and psychological well-being. It reduces appreciation and attachment to place. This study looks at connecting secondary students to their place through a place-responsive outdoor education journey and explores how the journey can influence their developing ethic of care for place. Place-responsive outdoor education is one way to potentially connect and ‘re-wild’ our school students to their place and nature. Through this, they may develop an ethic of care. There is then an assumption that by developing an ethic of care and responding to place, people will take action to look after or improve their place. However, little research has been conducted to date to show that there is a link between attachment to place and pro-environmental behaviour or taking action. The second part of this research explored how any potential ethic of care developed from the place-responsive outdoor education journey could be transformed into motivation for students to act for place, by adapting the place-responsive outdoor education journey to incorporate environmental advocacy sessions using Birdsall's (2010) model for learning about environmental action. This research uses a phenomenography approach to study the experiences of a group of secondary school students engaging in a place-responsive outdoor education journey and their responses to the journey. Twelve students came on the journey and six of these participated in the study. Data were gathered using photo-elicitation interviews based on photographs the students took during the place-responsive outdoor education journey. The students then attended a series of environmental advocacy sessions based on the journey to help them reflect and consider what response they might make to their experiences. A second interview was then held with each student after these sessions to explore their perceptions of an ethic of care leading to action. Data in the form of interview transcripts and observational notes were analysed and thematically organised. The first part of the study highlights the significance of a slow pedagogy to the place-responsive outdoor journey and the enjoyment by the students. Contextual factors like the weather had an impact on the students. The journey also emphasised the importance of community and social interaction for the students. At the end of the place-responsive outdoor education journey, the students expressed a sense of accomplishment and a deeper connection to the city, realising it was more than just shopping malls. The students indicated great enthusiasm and motivation to take action as the environmental advocacy sessions began. The students decided to use a voting system to decide on the final action to take, which lead to some students disengaging at this point as they may not have seen the relevance to them of the specific action chosen. For many of the students, other priorities and pressures made them feel too busy to have the time to take action. The findings indicate that students who have had repeat visits to place have a stronger connection to it and suggest this is a predictor of them continuing to taking action or display pro-environmental behaviour in response to their experiences.  
Type of thesis
Martindale, J. (2017). Intersections between place-responsive outdoor education and environmental action: Transforming secondary students’ ethic of care into action. (Thesis, Master of Health, Sport and Human Performance (MHSHP)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11772
The University of Waikato
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