This study explores pre-service teachers' past interactions with 'place' in outdoor settings and how these experiences contribute to their current perceptions of the importance of taking their own students into the outdoors. Specifically, the researchers were interested in investigating if current pre-service teachers are part of the 'nature-deficit disorder' generation described by Louv in his book, Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder (2005), as a generation of children growing up without direct experiences in nature. Study participants included 148 undergraduate pre-service elementary teachers enrolled in science teaching methods instructional courses at an urban college in the Northeastern United States and two suburban universities in the Southeastern United States. Participants wrote essay responses after reading Louv's Last Child in the Woods in which they were asked to relate the reading to their own past experiences and their ideas about elementary science education. Results indicate that a large majority of participants (97%) describe significant youth experiences in the outdoors, view nature as important in varying ways (89.9%), and express a desire to expose their own students to the outdoors (65.5%). Key findings are illustrated with direct quotations from the pre-service teachers' essay responses, as they write vividly of their interactions in outdoor places, referred to as 'place meanings'. Implications are presented for teacher educators working with pre-service teachers to build upon their outdoor experiences and prepare them for implementing nature-based instruction.
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