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Outdoor explorers: discovering the need for environmental conservation

Laura Stevens

Class project for Conservation Biology, BIO 345, fall 2004


Laura Stevens and a student from Greencastle Middle School
talking about a mammal skull during “Outdoors Explorers”

Seeing as how the most prominent environmental issues of today are human induced and environmental education has been shown to reduce acts of environmental degradation, while also using the findings of other programs, we constructed a local outdoor environmental education curriculum in the name of conservationism.  “Outdoor Explorers” – divided into four stations:  animals, plants, soil and water – included hands-on activities that illustrated ecological concepts with an underlying theme of ecological conservation.  We oversaw the animal station curriculum construction and execution.  Activities for the animal station included observing skull adaptations, constructing food chains, identifying animal tracks, and observing cockroaches.  Students from Greencastle Middle School participated in the “Outdoor Explorers” program at the DePauw University Nature Park.  We hypothesized that students would find the trip fun, engaging, and knowledgeable.  More specifically, we expected students to gain environmental knowledge. 

Dana Dudle with Greencastle Middle School 6th graders
at the DePauw Nature Park.

We administered a survey after the field trip to ask students if they had fun and if they found activities interesting or educational.  At least 80% of the students agreed that they did.  The same survey demonstrated that less than 60% found the level of the activities to be of appropriate difficulty and leaving students engaged in the environmental sciences.  Students were tested before and after the field trip to gauge a change in environmental knowledge.  For these pre- and post-tests (n = 97), we observed an average increase in score of 2.47 (from 19.98 to 22.45; p << 0.001, paired t-test).  For the component of the pre- and post-tests that related only to the animal station, the average score increased 0.47 (from 2.60 to 3.07; p << 0.001, paired t-test).  Thus there was a slight gain in environmental knowledge.  The pre- and post-tests were poorly designed, however, and more conclusive results would likely be observed if a more effective and objective test were written.  Also, many improvements can be made to the curriculum to increase the effectiveness of the educational activities.  Survey feedback suggested adding more hands-on activities, more time, and more challenging activities, for example.  These improvements can be made in future executions of “Outdoor Explorers” as there is now a curricular base and the aforementioned advice.

Click here to download:
Laura Stevens's report (microsoft word; 1.3 MB)