Using Short-Term Environmental Education Programs to Increase Student Learning and Elicit Positive Attitude Change
This work made publicly available electronically on May 9, 2012.
Short-term environmental education programs such as water festivals and field days are a common outreach tool for watershed programs, yet little is known about their effectiveness at increasing knowledge and environmental awareness. To address this question, I conducted a formal assessment by pre- and post-testing 1400 fourth-grade students who participated in a field day at a Forest Service campground in northern Utah. During the day, each child spent approximately one hour engaged in water-related activities, with an emphasis on aquatic macroinvertebrates and water quality. My research focused on whether this single hour was sufficient to change both knowledge and interest in protecting water and aquatic organisms.
The study also compared student learning in those classes that participated only in the single event with classes that had additional water-related lessons and activities prior to and after the field day. I also examined how well variables such as teacher knowledge and attitude, socio-demographics and type of outdoor activities enjoyed by students were correlated with student knowledge and attitude.
Results demonstrated that short-term events, especially those that include additional classroom experiences, can result in knowledge gain and changes in attitudes in young children. Teacher knowledge and attitude were not correlated with student knowledge and attitude; however, school district and type of outdoor activities enjoyed by students were both good predictors of knowledge and attitude scores.