Distancing Students From Nature: Science Camp and the Representation of the Human-Nature Relationship
This study investigated the curricular representations of the environment and the human-environment relationship at one residential school sponsored science camp. Data gathered included field notes from observational time at the camp, interviews with staff and classroom teachers, and documents from the site’s website, guides, manuals, and curricular guides. These data were analyzed to understand how the camp represented the human-environment relationship and the “proper” human-environment relationship to its participants. Analysis indicated that the camp’s official and enacted curriculum was shaped in response to two perceived problems, (1) students were perceived as having a disconnected relationship with the outdoors and lacking in outdoor experiences; and (2) staff members of the camp believed that time for science during the school day had diminished and that students were not receiving adequate science instruction at school. In response, the goal of the camp was to connect students to the outdoors through hands-on, sensory, experience based science and outdoor education experiences. However, key aspects of the camp experience and the formal and enacted curriculum unintentionally positioned students as separate from nature. The camp experience presented a vacation like understanding of the human-environment relationship as students became tourists of the outdoors. Despite the site’s goal of connecting students to the outdoors, the science camp experience worked to distance students from the outdoors by unintentionally representing the outdoors as a place that existed away from home and students’ everyday lives. Notably, nature became a place that existed in the past, separate from modernity. Students were tourists in an exotic location - nature. They received tours of the foreign outdoors, had fun, and returned home to their ordinary lives that were separate and distinct from the natural world.