Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources

Committee Chair

Robert C. Burns

Committee Member

David Smaldone

Committee Member

Chad Pierskalla


Quality, informal learning techniques combined with outdoor adventure recreation, or adventure STEM programming, is a potentially powerful complement to and extension of formal education (Fu et al., 2015). To address this underexplored field, West Virginia University (WVU) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) partnered to create a geology STEM, outdoor adventure recreation camp. This thesis research project employed qualitative directed content analysis to examine the potential impacts of this adventure STEM program on participants’ perceptions of their outdoor recreation (OR) self-efficacy (Bandura, 1994; Mittelstaedt et al., 2009). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 adolescent participants with an average age of 15 years. The camp program involved adventure activities combined with outdoor and in-class geology-focused informal learning. The curriculum employed was designed using a theoretical framework involving Experiential Education Theory (Kolb, 1984) and Self-Efficacy Theory (Bandura). Participants completed an eight-day adventure STEM program which involved recreation activities such as hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, zip lining, environmental education, biking, fossil hunting, and geocaching. Lessons focused on geologic mapping, basic geologic concepts, historical geology of the Appalachian Mountains, and hydrology and environmental geology. Qualitative, directed content analysis of interviews show results indicating that there was a change in outdoor recreation self-efficacy beliefs due to experiences which took place at the camp program and that campers each had unique experiences related to the main sources and processes of self-efficacy, especially in the context of OR activities and experiences. These described experiences aligned with Bandura’s (1977) main sources of self-efficacy and the physiological processes reported fit with his described processes through which self-efficacy beliefs are formed. Notably, the following factors most often impacted all interviewed participants’ perceptions and beliefs about their OR-related self-efficacy: confidence levels, the perceived challenge of activities, self-described strong motivation levels to participate in OR activities, coping abilities related to difficult or risky OR activities, previous experiences, and a high interest in OR activities prior to attending the camp.