Exploring the outdoors together: Assessing family learning in environmental education

Heather Toomey Zimmerman, Lucy Richardson McClain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This research examined families' interactions with the outdoors and exploration tools, such as field guides, at a nature center. In Phase 1 of the research, 28 families attending nature walk programs completed a survey on exploration tools and were ethnographically shadowed as they interacted on one trail. In Phase 2, an in-depth video-based analysis of learning processes was applied to 16 families' (54 people) recorded conversations from the nature walks. A conceptual framework based on informal learning and sociocultural theory situates the study. Findings show that families wanted scientific tools to support observations, yet struggled with field guides to identify species. Implications for supporting family learning processes include the need for localized educational guides and the advantages of video-based methodologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-47
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in Educational Evaluation
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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