The Effects of a Nature-Based Intervention Program on the Early Development of Self-Efficacy in Preschool-Aged Children

Gabriel Casher, Hope College
J. Davis Vanderveen, Hope College
Ryan Cotter, Hope College
Kelsey Hawkins, Hope College
Amanda Schab, Hope College
Sara Dykstra, Hope College
Ann Frisella, Hope College

This research was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Kellogg Foundation.


Evidence suggests that children who spend more time outdoors are healthier, happier and smarter (Kellert, 2005; Wells, 2000). The Ready For School initiative is an ongoing program for young children in Holland and Zeeland, Michigan, with the goal of “ensuring that every child from birth enters kindergarten prepared to succeed” (RFS, 2008). The Ready for School initiative, along with the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland, MI, designed a nature-based enrichment program for preschool children. Preschool children from the area participated in the study, which explored the effect of this program on the early development of self-efficacy. It is reasonable to consider that outdoor activity influences the development of one’s perceived self-efficacy, which can be defined as a child’s belief in his/her ability to perform tasks. High self-efficacy is considered to be a positive trait, fostering the enhancement of accomplishment and personal well-being. In addition, self-efficacy in childhood drives the growth of certain qualities, and has implications for such broad areas as career choices and aspirations (Bandura, 1993). In order to assess the impact of outdoor activity on children's self-efficacy, the Preschool Assessment of Self-Efficacy Scale (PASES) was developed. The study spanned a six-month period. Multivariate analysis of variance confirmed that preschoolers who participated in the nature-base intervention showed greater improvement in self-efficacy than those who did not participate in the program. The difference between the average increase in self-efficacy scores for the experimental group (mean=10.22) and the control group (mean=4.27) reached statistical significance (F(2,115)= 6.843, df=115, p=0.002, ƞp2=0.106). In addition, we saw statistically significant differences for the two groups in both the social and physical sub-scores. These results highlight the importance of outdoor activity for preschoolers in the early development of self-efficacy.