Early childhood educators' use of natural outdoor settings as learning environments: an exploratory study of beliefs, practices, and barriers
Abstract: In efforts to encourage use of natural outdoor settings as learning environments within early childhood education, survey research was conducted with 46 early childhood educators from northern Minnesota (United States) to explore their beliefs and practices regarding natural outdoor settings, as well investigate predictors of and barriers to the educational use of these settings. Of the beliefs measured, only two were signi!cantly related to frequency of use of natural outdoor settings: belief regarding dif!culty in using natural outdoor settings and belief regarding their relationship to nature. The strongest predictor of use was belief regarding dif!culty in using natural outdoor settings, accounting for 67.7% of the variance in the regression model. Results indicate primary barriers to be lack of walking access to natural outdoor settings, lack of time, winter weather, and safety concerns. These !ndings suggest efforts to increase early childhood educators' use of natural outdoor settings should not focus on in"u- encing their beliefs about the value of using natural outdoor settings in early childhood education, but instead on reducing barriers, thereby making the use of these settings seem more feasible.