Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Rebecca L. Powell

Second Advisor

Eric Boschmann

Third Advisor

Helen Hazen

Fourth Advisor

Tom Romero

Fifth Advisor

Bryan Wee


Children's geographies, COVID-19 lockdowns, Environmental education, Nature, Qualitative GIS, Story maps


Understanding youth relationships with nature—what nature is, where nature is located, and why nature is meaningful—is important for a range of contemporary issues, from promoting health and well-being to advancing a sustainable future. Relationships with nature are profoundly influenced by the lived experiences of youth, as they form social connections, have fun, learn, and go about their lives across an array of places—residences, schools, trip destinations, and places in between. One key to exploring youth relationships with nature, therefore, is engaging youth to document their experiences of nature in relation to specific places and developing methods that support them to do so. This dissertation aims to explore youth relationships with nature by expanding qualitative GIS methods to engage youth in research to document personal accounts of their experiences of nature and linking them to the locations of specific places. We partnered with a community organization, Nature Kids / Jóvenes de la Naturaleza (NKJN), in part to contribute to the ongoing efforts of NKJN to evaluate their environmental education (EE) programming for youth and families in Lafayette, Colorado (United States). We asked 55 youth to create story maps using existing web applications—combining images, descriptions, and drawings of areas on a map where specific nature places are meaningful in their lives. Our analysis of story maps explored impacts of different life experiences, including abrupt changes such as the COVID-19 lockdowns and differing exposure to EE programming, on how and where youth relate with nature and conceptualize what nature is. We integrated qualitative data and analysis with GIS and developed a codebook to interpret meanings embedded in the participant drawings of nature place areas on a map. We found that youth with different life experiences conceptualized and related with nature in different ways. Such differences would not have emerged without considering personal accounts in relation to specific locations as well as interpretations of participants’ drawings of areas on a map. Our qualitative GIS approach for analyzing participant-created story maps demonstrates the importance of engaging youth and their voices through familiar web-based technologies as well as documenting experiences of nature linked to geographic information about locations of specific places. Our analysis of participant-drawn areas on a map highlights untapped potential of qualitative GIS for gaining more nuanced understandings of the lived experiences of youth.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Corey J. Martz

File size

146 pgs

File format





Geography, Geographic information science and geodesy