Project Director

Hood, Ralph W., Jr., 1942-

Department Examiner

Ross, David F.; Farnsley, Sarah


Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Recent generations of children have been experiencing a decrease in connection to Nature, causing various negative effects on personal development and well-being. Researchers are studying the impact of environmental education programs as a potential resolution to this issue dubbed “nature deficit disorder.” Studies have shown that while citizen science by youth is rapidly expanding, little research addresses conservation science with environmental education. Recognizing this gap, the summer camps at Wells NERR are designed to ensure children’s environmental stewardship as they learn about estuarine ecology alongside environmental issues. This educational study focuses on how environmental education through estuarine activities at summer camps can promote environmental advocacy and encourage positivity in children’s lives as they develop. The research was conducted in an estuarine ecosystem at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, ME with hands-on exposure and interaction with the elements of nature. The researcher collected qualitative data by observing experiences in nature and collected quantitative data through distributing pre- and post- surveys that determined the perspectives of participants. Questionnaires measuring Behavior were distributed to parents/guardians and questionnaires measuring Happiness and Environmental Perception were distributed to students both prior to and after the children’s participation in the camps. This data was evaluated by comparing the pre-camp average scores to the post-camp average scores using a t-test in Microsoft Excel. The results indicate a statistically significant increase in the Composite Mental Health score in the three groups. The researcher recommends that data collected in a typical academic setting, over a longer period, and in a variety of environments would be more beneficial to study the impact of nature exposure throughout their development.


I would like to extend my utmost gratitude to all my friends, family, and colleagues that have supported me along my academic and spiritual journeys. First, a generous thank you to Suzanne Kahn and her guidance throughout my internship, her unwavering support in my passions, and her undying love for the planet and all its inhabitants. Thank you to Amanda Bailiff for providing friendship alongside educational guidance in my experiential learning. Next, a big thank you to Dr. Ralph Hood for being my Thesis Director and helping me through this senior thesis along with Dr. David Ross and Prof. Sarah Farnsley for their professional guidance and academic support throughout my writing process. Thank you to Stacy Cummings and Danielle Boudreau for their leadership and assistance as well as Chris Fuert and Sarah Nuss for their academic guidance. Thank you to the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program for granting me this opportunity and funding my internship. Last but not least, thank you to the children participating in this study who taught me just as much as I them, and thank you to all the elements of Nature that provided us a space for curiosity and discovery.

IRB Number



B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Environmental education--Maine--Wells; Estuarine ecology--Maine--Wells; Environmentalism--Social aspects


environmental education; experiential; intervention; children; nature perception


Environmental Education

Document Type



42 leaves