Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM
THE IMPORTANCE OF FACILITATING RELATIONAL ORIENTATIONS TOWARD NATURE IN EARTH SCIENCE PROGRAMS FOR NATIVE AMERICAN ADOLESCENTS
In spite of research showing that Native Americans are highly likely to possess sophisticated knowledge of complex Earth systems (Bang & Medin, 2010; Cajete, 2000), Native Americans remain severely underrepresented in the Earth sciences. Previous research evaluating the effectiveness of a culturally grounded, field-based geoscience education program for Native American adolescents has shown that these programs help to develop pathways toward the Earth sciences by building on adolescents' sense of relational connectedness to nature (Unsworth, Riggs, & Chavez, 2012). In the present research, we sought to increase our understanding of the ways in which we can build on relational orientations toward nature by examining specific factors that are associated with nature connectedness in Native American adolescents. A growing body of research has shown that nature exposure is related to an increased sense of self-nature interconnectedness (Mayer & Frantz, 2009; Schultz, 2007). However, very little research has compared generalized nature exposure with awe-inducing nature exposure. Our results show that, for Native American adolescents, awe-inducing nature exposure is strongly associated with connectedness to nature, positive attitudes toward science, perceived relevance of science for tribes, motivation toward a career in science, and positive concepts of future selves. Generalized nature exposure was unrelated to these outcomes. In addition, our results reveal an interaction between nature connectedness and perceived social support, such that adolescents who perceive the greatest nature connectedness and the strongest social support exhibit the strongest science identity. Other research findings involve evaluation of an Earth Sense internship program in which Native American adolescents learn about Earth science during awe-inducing nature experiences such as rock climbing and ocean kayaking. Results for changing concepts of self, nature, and science will be discussed.