Engaging Children with the Outdoors Through Free-Choice Learning: An examination of Discovery Packs at Royal Botanical Gardens
MetadataShow full item record
As an increasing number of people move into urban centers in Canada, it is important to find innovative ways for people to build an understanding of the natural world, as well as an affinity towards it. Museums, science centers, zoos, or botanical gardens combine education and play. As these places are often located near or within urban centers, they pose a unique opportunity to not only provide learning opportunities, but opportunities for people to engage with the natural world. Botanical gardens were chosen as a key setting for study, due to the direct connection they create between people and the natural world. This thesis combines the evaluation of a recently updated program at Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Hamilton, Ontario with the study of free-choice learning, environmental education, and connectedness with nature. The research tool of “Discovery Packs” contains several items for engaging with nature, such as an Activity Booklet, Binoculars, and a Magnifying Glass. This program was intended to be used as a self-guided education and engagement tool within the gardens and trails at RBG. Semi-structured interviews with families who used the Discovery Packs were conducted to evaluate the program and understand the impact of a free-choice environmental education program on children’s connectedness with nature. The study found that free-choice learning provides a valuable opportunity for combining education about the natural world with outdoor engagement, and that education in the form of free-choice learning can generate connectedness with nature.