Date of Conferral







Katherine Emmons


Children experience limited time outdoors and have few opportunities for outdoor learning in schools, putting them at risk for being unprepared to engage in solving environmental and societal problems. Researchers have examined outdoor learning at the preschool and high school levels; elementary school experiences have been explored less frequently. Guided by a conceptual framework informed by social emotional learning (SEL), ecological literacy, and teacher self-efficacy, this study investigated public school elementary teachers' experiences with outdoor classrooms including barriers and supports to creating and using outdoor classrooms. A qualitative design using in-depth interviews with interpretive phenomenological analysis techniques was conducted with 9 elementary teachers who had at least 2 years of recent experience working with outdoor classrooms in the U. S. Pacific Northwest. Thematic analysis of interview data, using a combination of a priori and open coding, identified primary themes related to academic rigor, district policies and budgets, and motivations for teaching ecoliteracy. Barriers including a lack of time and money needed to teach effectively using outdoor classrooms and the need for a stronger integrated curriculum that connects SEL, environmental education, and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emerged as areas of concern. Recommendations based on these findings include ecoliteracy professional development for teachers which may contribute to positive social change by increasing teacher understanding of and involvement with outdoor learning and the integration of ecoliteracy in the pedagogy of K-6 programs.