Date of Award

2005

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Individually Designed

Advisor

Phyllis Brazee

Second Committee Member

Ed Brazee,

Third Committee Member

Lyn Mikel Brown

Abstract

Historically, the wilderness and outdoor recreational activities have been portrayed as a masculine domain. In spite of this, women's participation in wilderness programs has increased, illustrating what research has proven-that women reap positive mental, physical, and spiritual outcomes from participating in outdoor experiences. Research on the benefits for female participants focuses primarily on women's experiences; however, little research investigates the outcomes of girls' participation. More specifically, the literature neglects the study of how participation in outdoor wilderness programs challenges conventional notions of femininity. The goal of this study was to 1) add girls' voices to the research on the outcomes of participating in an all-female program, 2) expand the research on girls' development, 3) examine how participation in a wilderness program challenged conventional notions of femininity for adolescent girls, and, 4) expand the research on poor and working-class girls' constructions of femininity through the lens of their participation in an outdoor recreational program. Feminist and qualitative research methods were used to examine how participation in an all-female wilderness program challenged conventional notions of femininity for adolescent girls. Interviews, a focus group, public presentation, parent surveys, journal entries, applications, and trip reports were used to examine the ways in which girls, who participated in an outdoor experience, spoke about personal change and growth and how the experience challenged their constructions of femininity. The results of this study indicate that girls who participated in an extensive wilderness program challenged conventional notions of femininity in diverse ways. This includes: 1) perseverance, strength, and determination, 2) challenging assumptions of girls' abilities, 3) elevated self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment and pride, 4) questioning ideal images of beauty, 5) increased ability to speak out (voice) and leadership skills, and, 6) building significant relationships with other girls. This study reveals the importance of including girls' voices in the examination of wilderness programs and offers a clearer understanding of how participation in an outdoor program challenged conventional notions of femininity for adolescent girls.

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