The Effects of Short Term Natural Environment Exposure on Preservice Teacher's Mental Health
July 7, 2021 2pm
Preservice teachers face a unique trifecta; they must learn to recognize indicators and impacts of mental health disorders, respond to P-12 students’ mental health needs, and simultaneously support their own mental health during a critical period of adolescent development and transition. Instead of viewing this as “the perfect storm,” we frame this as an opportunity to go beyond providing basic knowledge of mental health issues and find an innovative approach that teaches novice teachers how to manage their own needs as well as those of their students. We sought an inexpensive and accessible intervention that might allow preservice teachers to experience the recovery potential for themselves. We found this in nature. This study explores changes in emotional well-being for 16 preservice teachers in both natural and simulated professional development environments. The Reflection Rumination Questionnaire and the Profile of Mood States were used to examine rumination and mood as indicators of mental health status. Compared to the professional development setting, the natural environment had a positive effect on rumination, Tension-Anxiety, Confusion-Bewilderment, Esteem-related Affect, and Total Mood. As preservice teachers prepare to enter a uniquely stressful career, incorporating nature into professional development is an inexpensive intervention, supports teacher emotional well-being, and potentially benefits all students as educators navigate challenges in mental health.