Masters Thesis

University students’ perceptions of the impact of a wilderness education program on their personal growth, resilience, and sense of community

This study examines students’ perceptions of the impact of a wilderness education program on their resilience, personal growth, and sense of community. Wilderness education is a hands-on style of teaching and learning that is set in an immersion environment and provides participants with opportunities to develop experiences beyond the typical classroom educational experience. These experiences are often difficult to measure but can have profound lasting effects on participants. I developed and administered a mixed-methods instrument to measure the perceived impact of wilderness education on students in terms of their resilience, personal growth and sense of community. Results were coded to reveal themes. The resulting data revealed trends in the similarity of positive and lasting effects that participants recalled from their experiences in relation to resilience, personal growth, and community. Links were made between the results of this research and behavioral learning theory, social learning theory, and cognitive learning theory. Participants perceived themselves to have an increased resiliency, to have developed personally through this experience, and to have developed stronger senses of community. The results of this research support the philosophy of wilderness education that learning occurs between teacher and student with content that is embedded directly in the environment.