Children’s Perceptions of Nature and Maps

Authors: Shadi Maleki*, Texas State University - San Marcos, Emily Warren, Texas State University - San Marcos
Topics: Geography Education
Keywords: children's maps, perception, nature, sketch maps
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Balcony N, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Previous studies have reported that experiencing nature and outdoor activities improves children’s physical and mental wellbeing and enhances their critical thinking and ecological consciousness. Research has also investigated the ways in which children perceive and portray nature and its elements in maps and drawings. Literature suggests that children develop spatio-temporal abilities from an early age and experiencing nature influences the way they understand and interact with their environment. In addition, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requires students to learn about maps and map-making beginning in the first grade. The purpose of this study is to examine children’s reflections of nature through the examination of maps drawn by 5th-9th grade students following a school-sanctioned field trip at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. The data is collected through an interactive process which encourages children to observe nature through different activities organized in the context of fieldtrips. At the end of the fieldtrip, participants draw a map of their field trip experience and explain the elements included in their maps. Over 300 maps were analyzed to assess students’ representations of nature, human-built infrastructure, and cartographic features. Both quantitative evaluation of the map features, and qualitative interpretations of the written descriptions are presented. In addition to analyzing children’s conceptualization of nature, the analysis offers insight into techniques of informal science education that can be leveraged to enhance children’s knowledge about maps and map-making as well as their active participation in research.

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