International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change (IDSC)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Laurie Ross

Second Reader

Jie Park


This paper describes the methodology, findings, and implications of research project attempting to understand youths’ conceptualizations of nature and the outdoors. Drawing on and responding to literature that calls for the prioritization of youths’ voices and describes nature as a constructed concept, I interviewed five youth residents of Worcester, Massachusetts, a mid-size city in New England. Using discourse analysis, I also attempt to understand what influences these youths’ conceptualizations of nature and the outdoors. The youth expressed nuanced and complex ideas about nature and the outdoors, situating these ideas within broader conceptualizations of the environment. They also suggested that these conceptualizations are fluid. I conclude by identifying the implications of these findings, particularly in relation to youth work practice, in which, I suggest, dialogue, discourse analysis, and similar tools can be useful means of connection and understanding.





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