Research in Outdoor Education


In the past 30 years, a number of researchers have attempted to understand what makes people care about the environment or what underlies "environmental sensitivity." Most of this research is rooted in the theory that environmental sensitivity (ES) is the first step in a developmental process that.leads persons in the direction of feeling what Chawla (1998) calls "ownership" and "empowerment" (p. 11) regarding protection of the environment· Some early researchers focused on.individuals' self-claimed influences on environmental sensitivity based on "significant life experiences" (Peterson, 1982; Tanner, 1980}; while others attempted to find an association between outdoor participation and environmental concern (Dunlap & Heffernan, 1975; Geisler, Martinson,.& Wilkening, 1977; Theodori, Luloff, & Willits, 1998; VanLiere & Noe, 1981). Results from both approaches have often suggested a relationship between outdoor experiences and environmental sensitivity, but not consistently or strongly. Recognizing that "outdoor recreation" can be or mean many things, this study sought to determine if people with different levels of environmental sensitivity differ in the character of the outdoor experiences they prefer.