Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management


Powell, Robert B.

Committee Member

Wright, Brett A.

Committee Member

Stern, Marc J.

Committee Member

Moore, D. DeWayne


Interpretation efforts are commonly used in park and protected area management to communicate information about a place to visitors, and in some cases, are also intended to persuade visitors to engage in stewardship behaviors. The National Park Service (NPS) Junior Rangers (JR) programs are intended to develop a sense of stewardship within participating children; however, few studies have explored the effectiveness of these programs. In addition, despite considerable research investigating interpretation and its influence, further exploration of the factors that influence stewardship behaviors in participants of interpretation are needed. The purpose of this Dissertation research was to: 1) develop scales to measure national park stewardship behaviors and elaboration in children, 2) examine the relationship between elaboration and the performance of national park stewardship behaviors, and 3) explore the influence of interpretation on youth participants' (ages 8-13) national park stewardship behaviors and behavioral intentions through an evaluation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) JR program. A communication theory known as the elaboration likelihood model provided the theoretical foundation for surveys developed for this research. Survey data were collected during the summer of 2009 from two independent samples of GRSM visitors: 1) children who had not yet participated in the JR program; and 2) children who had completed the program and been sworn in as Junior Rangers. Results suggest that interpretation programs, such as the GRSM JR program, have the potential to influence youth participants (ages 8-13) to engage in stewardship behaviors on-site, and to inspire intentions to participate in stewardship behaviors at home and in their communities. This Dissertation makes a contribution to the field with the development of two new scales for measuring the outcomes of interpretation on youth participants: 1) the stewardship elaboration scale, which includes sub-scales to measure program participants' interest and cognitive engagement in national park stewardship issues, and 2) the national park stewardship behavior scale, comprised of sub-scales measuring in-park, home, and community behaviors. Finally it was found that individuals' enhanced awareness, interest, and cognitive engagement, combined to represent elaboration, predicted 88% of the behavioral intentions and behaviors associated with national park stewardship.