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McNair Scholars Program

Ruddy (Yañez) Benavides, M.S.

She/her

Education: Bachelor of Science in family studies and human services (December 2013)

Bachelor of Arts in modern languages (December 2013)

Master of Science in child, youth and family studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

McNair Project: Urban and Rural Preschool Children's Attitudes on Conservation and Comfort with Nature (2012)

Mentor: Bronwyn Fees, Ph.D.

Daily engagement outside may promote healthy physical and psychological development as well as a respect and appreciation for nature. This explanatory study examined the relationship between preschooler's personal comfort with nature (biophilia) and their attitudes toward conservation in urban and rural areas. Urban and rural areas may offer different opportunities for exposure and engagement with water, trees, and animals. A comparison between the two settings may determine if different amounts of exposure change the attitudes and personal comfort of children. Thirty-seven children (28 urban [M= 4 years of age; 16 males] and 9 rural [M= 5 years of age; 4 males] participated in one-on-one structured and recorded interviews about their attitudes toward and experiences with nature (Kahn & Kellert, 2002). Results showed no difference in personal comfort between urban and rural children. Common themes emerging in children's attitudes toward conservation were: understanding that personal pets need constant care and attention, understanding personal responsibility for water quality, and understanding that fish may be harmfully affected by trash in the water. Children's personal preferences and experiences with families may better predictors of attitude than setting alone with direct implications for teachers and parents.