Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Margaret Quinn

Committee Members

Margaret Quinn, Lori Caudle, Robyn Brookshire


Exposure to nature is important for children’s development and the future of the natural world. Children’s time spent outdoors has the potential to increase biophilia, one’s connection with nature, impacting their attitude towards nature and nature conservation over their lifetime. Environmental stewardship begins with an understanding of nature and how one can protect the environment around them. This study sought to explore children’s understandings of nature and stewardship by engaging a small group of preschoolers (n = 6) in photographing nature in their school’s outdoor playspace and asking prompting questions using the photographs in a semi-structured follow-up interview. Photographs were coded for content and perspective. Interviews were transcribed and thematically coded using an open coding approach. Results showed that children primarily took pictures of trees, plants, and ground materials such as grass and dirt. When considering the ways in which they approached photographing nature, children often took photographs looking down and focused on one object. In follow-up interviews, children were able to convey beginning understandings of nature and initial ideas around stewardship of nature, with a particular focus on short-term effects of human interaction. Findings suggest even young children have understandings of nature and can express them variously. Implications are discussed.

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