Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education



Major Advisor

Dr. Kristin Cook


Nature-based environmental education, and research around the cultivation of connectedness to nature, has focused primarily on younger learners without paying close attention to the development of nature-based college curriculum (Leiflander et al., 2013; Ernst & Theimer, 2011; Cheng & Monroe, 2010). Additionally, spirituality as a mechanism for engaging students in the development of connectedness to nature has largely been neglected in higher education pedagogical research (Crowe, 2013). The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of a nature-based, spiritually engaging undergraduate environmental course on students’ connectedness to nature. This quasi-experimental, mixed methods case study compared changes to connectedness to nature of a control group (n = 14) with an experimental group (n = 24) using the Connectedness to Nature Scale (Mayer & Frantz, 2004) as a pre-test and post-test quantitative measure and paired-group interviews, analytic memos, and artifacts from the experimental group as qualitative data. Both control and experimental groups were comprised of college seniors enrolled in a Catholic Social Teaching Interdisciplinary Course at a private, independent Catholic liberal arts university. Both control and experimental groups exhibited statistically significant increases in connectedness to nature, with the experimental group doing so at a lower p-level. I explored the influence of demographic factors and course design in an effort to identify potential explanatory factors for this phenomenon and concluded that the two main factors which played a role in this finding were spiritual impact, present in both courses, and nature-based pedagogy, found in the experimental course alone.