Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Thomas Hudspeth


Sustainability is an area of growing pertinence as our future and the future of our planet depends on its acceptance and application. Determining patterns in pro-sustainable attitudes and behaviors, and revealing motivations behind these behaviors have important implications for the future of sustainability education. The primary objective of this study is to discover the relationships between educational experience and sustainability attitudes and behaviors in elementary school students. A secondary objective is to determine the motivation behind pro-sustainability behaviors and to establish the role this plays in educational programs. The study utilizes mixed methodology through two modes of data collection: 1. Student surveys, and 2. Teacher questionnaires. The surveys are self-report and were analyzed quantitatively to determine patterns. Ninety seven students (63 from a school with sustainability based curriculum, Sustainability Academy at Barnes (SAB), and 34 from a general curriculum school without a specific sustainability focus, CP Smith) in grades 3-5 completed a 20 question survey which measured sustainability attitudes and behaviors. Students involved in a sustainability education program scored higher on every indicator, and highest and lowest indicators for attitude and behavior were the same for both schools, showing distinct areas of strengths and needs. The average mean scores for attitudes were higher than the average mean scores for behavior for both schools. SAB students had a significantly higher amount of correlations between attitudes and behaviors than C.P Smith students did. The questionnaires are qualitative and are structured, with open ended responses. The questionnaires were completed by the five teachers of the SAB students who completed the survey. The eighteen questionnaire questions are focused on what sustainability means to the teachers, how it is used in their curriculum, and perceived student sustainability attitudes/behavior. Social justice was the most mentioned concept relating to sustainability. Other important factors were: community, opportunity, adult role models, and socio-economic barriers to sustainable attitudes and behaviors. Students from the sustainability focused program seemingly hold both sustainability based attitudes and behaviors as a higher priority; however, the schools had the same areas of needs. Future sustainability education curriculum would benefit from focusing on transportation and alternatives to consumption. Also, attitudes towards recycling/reusing and borrowing have shown to be closely tied to attitudes in other areas of sustainability; therefore, strengthening attitudes in these areas will likely affect attitudes across sustainability. A cross curricular sustainability program with a focus on social justice issues and experiential learning, experienced with strong role models, appears to develop students with more advanced sustainability attitudes and behaviors than programs with no sustainability curriculum.  



Number of Pages

52 p.