My research focuses on experiences of place in community and natural environments with a special emphasis on children and youth from early childhood through young adulthood. I study individuals’ experiences in natural settings, geographical communities, and school- and community-based educational and recreational programs.
My current research addresses two primary areas. The first is to examine childhood experiences in nature and to further the understanding of the processes by which free play, outdoor recreation, and organizational activities relate to environmental attitudes, perceptions of nature, and concern for the natural environmental in adulthood. Additionally, I am interested in studying the opportunity structures that provide access to and engage young people in natural environments, such as community gardens and adventure based outdoor recreation programs for urban youth. I also am interested in innovative outdoor settings for young children that exist in other cultural contexts, such as forest preschools in Germany and Sweden.
The second area examines community and place attachment in adolescence and young adulthood. I focus on the processes by which individuals become engaged in or attached to geographical places, especially through civic engagement, outdoor activities, and connection to landscapes. My interests also include hometown attachment of university students and others leaving home for the first time.
Connecting Young Children with Nature: An Assessment of Current Childcare Practices
Childhood Experiences in Nature: Impacts Across the Life Span
Hometown Community Sentiment: Exploring the Role of Youth Civic Engagement and Childhood Place Experiences
Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-Based Cropping Systems – Evaluation of Educational Activities
Environment and Natural Resources 2000 -- Natural Resources Data Analysis
Rural Sociology 1500 -- Introduction to Rural Sociology
A graduate level course on Environmental Evaluation is currently under development
In addition to research and teaching, I am a State Specialist with Ohio State University Extension in Leadership Development and Program Evaluation. My current efforts focus on youth leadership development. Since 2009, I have produced the weekly program, Youth Beat Radio, which airs on Columbus Community Radio Station WCRS. The show promotes youth leadership, community service, community action, and youth perspectives, and it provides an opportunity for high school and university students to engage in radio production. Topics include environmental issues, recreation, health, culture, arts, music, and current events.
Youth Leadership Summits on the Environment will be held in 2014 in collaboration with the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. High school students learn about environmental issues, develop leadership skills, and create an action plan to be carried out in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities. This year’s summits will focus on water resources
Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, 1998
M.S., Home Economics/Child and Family Services, University of Wisconsin-Stout, 1993
B.A., Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1986
Lekies, K. S., & Beery T. H. (2013). Everyone needs a rock: Collecting items from nature in childhood. Children, Youth, and Environments 23(3), 66-88.
Harrison, J. L., Lekies, K. S., & Arnold, K. (2013). From participant to planner: A longitudinal approach to youth leadership. Journal of Sustainability Education 5, Part II.
Scheer, S. D., Harrod, N., & Lekies, K. S. (2012). The influence of competitive personality orientation on adolescent emotional intelligence. Journal of Youth Development 7, 6-14.
Wells, N. W. and Lekies, K.S. (2012). Children and nature: Following the trail to environmental attitudes and behaviors. In, J. Dickinson and R. Bonney (Eds.), Citizen science: Public collaboration in environmental research Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Lekies, K.S. (2011). Connection to place: Exploring community satisfaction and attachment among rural youth. Children, Youth, and Environments 21, 77-99.
Lekies, K.S. and Whitworth, B. (2011). Constructing the nature experience: A semiotic examination of signs on the trail. The American Sociologist 42, 249-260.
Ferrari, T.M., Lekies, K.S. and Arnett, N. (2009). Opportunities matter: Exploring youth’s perspectives on their long-term participation in an urban 4-H youth development program. Journal of Youth Development 4(3).
Lekies, K.S., Baker, B. and Baldini, J. (2009). Assessing participation in Youth Community Action projects: Opportunities and barriers. Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society 40, 346-358.
Lekies, K.S., Eames-Sheavly, M., MacDonald, L.and Wong, K.J. (2007). Greener Voices: Strategies to increase the participation of children and youth in gardening activities. Children, Youth, and Environments 17, 517-526.
Lekies, K.S. and Eames-Sheavly, M. (2007). Fostering children’s interests in gardening. Applied Environmental Education and Communication 6, 67-75.
Wells, N.M. and Lekies, K.S. (2006). Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood experiences with nature to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth, and Environments 16 (1-24).