Changes in Knowledge and Attitude from a Short-Term Aquatic Education Program

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Natural Sciences Education





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Short-term field days are a common outreach tool for watershed programs, yet little is known about their effectiveness. To address this question, we conducted pre- and post-tests on 4th grade students who participated in a field day at a U.S. Forest Service campground. In addition to assessing the value of the single field day, we also tested the value of additional activities on knowledge gain and retention over time. Classes that only participated in the field days demonstrated a significant increase in knowledge after 2 weeks and after 8 months, although the 8-month scores decreased significantly compared with the 2-week scores. We found a similar pattern for classes that received pre- and post-classroom lessons on water. A third group of classes participated in a second field day toward the end of the school year. As with the other groups, this group demonstrated a significant increase in post-test scores, but no significant decrease in post-test scores over time. We also evaluated the single field day for evidence of changed attitudes about protecting streams. We found a heightened sense of stewardship in this group on the 2-week post-test. We conclude that short-term environmental education programs can be effective at increasing knowledge and promoting feelings of stewardship. We also conclude that enhancing these programs with high-quality lessons or additional field experiences may result in greater retention over time.

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