Early Childhood Educators' Perceptions of Nature, Science, and Environmental Education

Julia Torquati, Kay Cutler, Deanna Gilkerson, Susan Sarver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


This study examined early childhood educators' perceptions about nature, science, and environmental education. Preservice early childhood teachers (n = 195) and early childhood professionals currently practicing in the field (n = 162) rated the importance of providing specific nature/science experiences for young children, the importance of specific nature/science learning outcomes, and their confidence implementing specific activities. Research Findings: Consistent with our hypotheses, both professionals and students rated the curricular domain of nature/science as the least important for young children in terms of experiences and learning outcomes in comparison to other curricular domains. Similarly, both professionals and students reported that they were least confident implementing nature/science activities compared to activities in other curricular domains. Qualitative analysis of open-ended questions yielded themes related to definitions of nature, specific activities in and about nature that can promote children's learning and development, and what educators need to know and be able to do in order to be effective "nature educators." Practice or Policy: Preservice and in-service teacher professional development would benefit from (a) the inclusion of content on nature, science, and environmental education, including the interrelatedness of human and natural systems; (b) a focus on place-based education and/or emergent curriculum; and (c) the provision of experiences in nature that help teachers to develop confidence implementing activities in nature. [Supplementary material is available for this article. Go to the publisher's online edition of Early Education & Development for the following free supplemental resource: Appendix A: Teacher Survey Questions.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-743
Number of pages23
JournalEarly Education and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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