An analysis of outdoor activities by Deborah J. Chavez, a specialist in outdoor recreation research, suggests this to be the case.
Chavez writes about student reactions to selected outdoor activities in Youth Day in Los Angeles: Evaluating the Role of Technology in Children’s Nature Activities.
The Youth Day activities described in Chavez (2009) include two technology-dependent activities and two activities in which technology did not play a role. The format for each activity was the same. Each activity was designed to have a 5-minute introduction, a 30-minute activity, a 15-minute wrap-up, and a 10-minute transition to the next activity. Youth Day participants ranged in age from 6-17. Thirty-eight youth from the Los Angeles area were divided into eight groups and rotated through each activity on a pre-planned schedule designed by Chavez. Two trained facilitators were assigned to each group. Observers were stationed at each activity to record participant’s reactions and comments.
Here is a brief review of the Youth Day activities described in Chavez (2009):
Participants took photos of things that interested them as they walked along a nature trail. Photos were printed and categorized for analysis.
Participants looked for hidden treasure along a nature trail using GPS units.
Participants completed rubbings and created etchings.
Nature Scavenger Hunt:
Participants received a list of natural items to look for along a trail.
Each activity was evaluated by participants, observers and facilitators. Participants rated each activity using a color-coded rating system where a Green rating meant participants liked an activity, a Yellow rating meant participants thought an activity was “OK” or that they were undecided about their opinion of an activity. A Red rating meant participants did not like an activity.
The technology-dependent activities received the highest approval ratings from participants — Geocache (92%), Camera Safari (86%). The Nature Scavenger Hunt and the Etchings activity received approval ratings of 76% and 62%, respectively. These results, in addition to the thorough notes and feedback of facilitators and observers suggest that using technology in outdoor nature activities may be a good way to encourage young people to engage with nature.
To read a full analysis of Youth Day, including a review of background literature related to outdoor education, how Chavez designed Youth Day, and Chavez’s helpful discussion of planning and logistical issues for informal science educators interested in conducting similar one-day events, look for Chavez (2009) at an institution that subscribes to JSTOR. Conduct a search by country on JSTOR’s website. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the journal Children, Youth and Environments for access to all back issues of this journal.
Chavez, Deborah J. 2009. Youth Day in Los Angeles: Evaluating the role of technology in children’s nature activities. Children, Youth and Environments. 19(1): 102-124
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