Date of Award

8-9-2014

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

First Advisor

Rhonda Jeffries

Abstract

A recent trend in social science research has focused on factors that lead to low participation rates by racial groups, specifically the African American population, within outdoor and wilderness settings as a connection to the issue of low participation rates by these same groups in outdoor and environmental careers. Much of the research has relied upon theories that address the marginalization of the African American population in relation to the social context: marginality, subculture/ethnicity, discrimination, acculturation, and opportunity. However, an area of interest that warrants a deeper examination of potential contributing causality is the role of the educator.

The purpose of this study will be to compare data from informal educators at three urban wilderness sites managed by three separate entities (South Carolina Parks & Recreation, South Carolina Forestry Commission, & National Park Service) to formal educators, at low-income and majority African American student populated schools within close proximity to the natural sites. Comparison will examine differences in awareness and perceptions of the issue of low participation rates by diverse populations in natural settings. Through a mixed methods approach within a multi-site case study, critical race theory will frame this examination of whether educators are aware of the lack of participation by racial minorities within the outdoors and outdoor professions and what logistical, professional, and personal factors within the educational system are contributing to the issue despite the notion that environmental education has demonstrated academic achievement. By examining available support resources at the

natural sites, and analyzing both administered surveys and informal educator focus groups, a clearer picture will be provided in determining whether the underlying theories of oppression related to racial minority cultures are the main causes of low participation within the outdoors and outdoor professions including those of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields or whether educators need to seriously be considered as part of the underlying issue .

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