Date of Award:

2013

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Education

Advisor/Chair:

Martha Whitaker

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative, purposeful, bounded case study was to explore the influences that promoted and restricted three women early childhood educators' inclusion of open-ended outdoor learning in a Head Start center. A continued degradation of nature, along with the predominance of women working in the early childhood workforce, led me to the use of the ecofeminist theory for this study. Research methodology included participant interviews, observations, and a study of the site's documents. In the analysis of the data, four themes were identified as promoting or restricting open-ended outdoor learning. These themes included: (a) participant's attitudes, (b) Head Start program requirements, (c) classroom and playground context, and (d) student behavior. Each of the themes included codes that were categorized as promoting or restricting open-ended outdoor learning. Some fell into both categories. Through the use of the ecofeminist lens, a view of the dualistic relationships between (a) teachers and the Head Start program and (b) teachers and their students were identified. These dualisms were found to support the "logic of domination" in which social structures were created to justify the domination of one group over another. These structures have historically been identified as patriarchal and were present at the research site. Children's culture and nature's intrinsic values were considered less valuable than adults' expectations for school readiness. This study provides a view of an ecofeminist early childhood analysis in which limited research is currently available. Further work in this field would aid in the understanding of the dualistic model and its presence in early childhood outdoor learning environments.

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