Effect of Mindfulness Activities on Environmental Education and Interpretation Practicum Students
College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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Environmental educators have an important role in fostering curiosity and learning of children and adults. Professionals and students in environmental education and related fields can experience stress. Mindfulness is one way to address this stress. The purpose of this study was to investigate how mindfulness practices could address stress within an undergraduate environmental education and interpretation practicum course with the following research question: How do environmental education and interpretation practicum students perceive the impact of mindfulness interventions? The research question was answered using a mixed methods approach with an emphasis on qualitative data with nine participants. A pre-post Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire measured participants’ mindfulness levels. Each week, participants completed an online stress check to rate their stress level immediately before and after participating in a mindfulness activity. Three semi-structured interviews were conducted throughout the study. The interviews were transcribed and coded. Thematic analysis resulted in the following themes: practicum involves stress, mindfulness impacts environmental education and interpretation practicum students, and mindfulness decreases stress for various reasons. The theme of mindfulness impacts environmental education and interpretation practicum students included subthemes of: mindfulness impacts practicum experience, mindfulness impacts stress, and mindfulness impacts personal life. Subthemes of mindfulness decreases stress for various reasons included: reframing stress and seeing the big picture, recognizing stress and emotions, and calming down. Themes of increased mindfulness levels and mindfulness practices and preferences were also found. Participants felt that mindfulness helped them lower stress, and incorporated mindfulness into their personal lives. On average, over half of participants lowered their stress each week. Results suggest the use of mindfulness had positive effects on the participants’ stress and mindfulness levels. The use of mindfulness could be implemented in environmental education practicum courses and trainings to support students in managing their stress and enhancing their experience.