Outdoor education helps minority students close gap in environmental literacy

Mar 22, 2013

(Phys.org) —Environmental education programs that took middle school students outdoors to learn helped minority students close a gap in environmental literacy, according to research from North Carolina State University.

The study, published March 22 in PLOS ONE, showed that time outdoors seemed to impact African-American and Hispanic students more than Caucasian students, improving minority students' ecological knowledge and cognitive skills, two measures of environmental literacy. The statewide study also measured environmental attitudes and pro- such as recycling and conserving water.

"We are interested in whether outdoor experiences can be part of a catch-up strategy that can help in narrowing the environmental literacy gap for ," said lead author Kathryn Stevenson, an NC State graduate student who has taught outdoor education in California and high school biology and science in North Carolina.

Researchers tested the environmental literacy of sixth- and eighth-grade students in 18 North Carolina schools in the fall and spring. Half of the schools studied had registered an environmental education program with the state.

Using a published environmental curriculum, such as Project Learning Tree, Project WET or Project WILD, helped build students' cognitive skills, researchers found. Learning in an outdoor environment improved students' ecological knowledge, environmental attitudes and behavior.

"This is one of the first studies on a broad scale to focus on environmental literacy, which is more than mastering facts," said co-author Nils Peterson, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife in NC State's College of Natural Resources. "Being environmentally literate means that students learn cognitive skills so that they can analyze and solve problems, and it involves environmental attitudes and behaviors as well."

Girls and boys appeared to have complementary strengths that contributed to environmental literacy. Boys scored highest on knowledge, while girls led in environmental attitudes and cognitive skills.

Sixth graders showed greater gains in environmental literacy than eighth graders, suggesting that early middle school is the best window for environmental literacy efforts, Stevenson said.

Teachers' level of education played an important role in building environmental literacy. Those with a master's degree had students with higher levels of overall environmental literacy.

Teachers who had spent three to five years in the classroom were more effective at building students' than new teachers. Efforts are needed to engage veteran teachers in environmental education, Stevenson said.

In a follow-up to the study, Stevenson is studying coastal North Carolina ' perceptions of climate change.

Explore further: Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The coal hard truth

Feb 04, 2011

Coal has long been synonymous with America's industrial heritage and economic expansion. That doesn't have to change: The United States has a 300-year supply of coal waiting to be tapped, a predicament that is at the heart ...

Hold the Calculators: Let's Talk About Math!

Aug 03, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many children, when learning to read, are encouraged by their teachers to retell all they remember about a story in order to build their comprehension skills. But can similar comprehension strategies be applied ...

Recommended for you

Affirmative action elicits bias in pro-equality Caucasians

5 hours ago

New research from Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business indicates that bias towards the effects of affirmative action exists in not only people opposed to it, but also in those who strongly endorse equality.

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

Jul 24, 2014

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

Jul 23, 2014

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

plaasjaapie
1 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2013
I wonder how many thousand years are going to pass before earnest social engineers are able to "close the gap"? :-/