Influence of a Nature- Based Science Enrichment Program on Early Childhood Activity Preferences

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

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Previous research has been dedicated to the increasingly sedentary child population and the interventions necessary for navigating the obesity epidemic children are facing. Currently, children spend less time in outside play than previous generations (Clements, 2004). Additionally, 23% of children today do not participate in any organized or free-time physical activity, with 83% of children receiving nearly 2 hours per day of screen time (Rideout & Hamel, 2006; CDC, 2003). This correlates with increasing obesity rates, with childhood obesity increasing from 4% to 20% from 1960 to 2004 (CDC, 2006). It has also been revealed that interventions can have implications for children’s activity preferences, encouraging them to engage in more active and outdoor behavior. This study investigated the influence of a nature-based science enrichment program on the activity preferences of students in early childhood classrooms. Over 400 students were recruited to participate in active lessons focusing on nature implemented by a naturalist educator. Prior to the intervention, investigators conducted interviews with the children in order to determine baseline activity preferences. Participants were presented with two pictures of contrasting activities and asked to choose which one they preferred, which were classified as active/outdoor versus sedentary/indoor. In addition, a postinterview will be conducted to determine the children’s activity preferences after receiving the nature-based program for comparison to pre-test data. We predicted that children who participated in the intervention would have significantly higher preferences for active and outdoor activities versus indoor and sedentary activities. These results would reveal the necessity for naturebased lessons in early childhood classrooms. As students are exposed to more outdoor activities, they become more inclined to develop active and outdoor lifestyles. This could aid in counteracting childhood obesity as students may spend less time in sedentary activities and participate in more physical activities.


This research was funded by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation

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