COS 24-9 - Identifying patterns in environmental education and stewardship programs across Texas: a database and survey approach

Tuesday, August 9, 2011: 10:50 AM
9C, Austin Convention Center
Jenny D. Lloyd-Strovas, Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX and Thomas L. Arsuffi, Llano River Field Station, Texas Tech University, Junction, TX

With growing awareness of the environmental crisis in the 1970’s came the realization that the environmental problems we faced were largely created by human actions. That realization launched a new field of study, environmental education (EE), which is responsible for increasing environmental literacy among the world’s citizenry. John Dewey, the most influential modern philosopher of education, argued that education had the social purpose of developing responsible members of society. As the world population continues to increase and natural resources become limited, EE can play an essential role in developing environmentally literate citizens who are capable of understanding and voting for sound environmental policies. This study aims to develop a comprehensive database of Texas EE programs that will not only provide information on location and abundance of these programs, but also allow comparisons based on various criteria. It will be an excellent resource for researchers, teachers, and community members who are looking for environmental-based programs that are located in a specific region, or focus on a particular topic.  In addition, the analysis of program criteria will assist in illuminating areas of EE which need further research.


We identified 257 programs that included K-12 formal education (programs that are based on state learning objectives) and informal education (programs that involve K-12, college, and general public education). An online survey was emailed to each program and included questions aimed to identify the following program characteristics: demographics, ecosystem, pedagogy/curriculum, assessment, sustainability, facilities/operations, and national curricula guidelines. We obtained survey responses from 85 programs, a 33% response rate. Preliminary results show that, of the programs sampled, 33% were primarily formal education programs while 45% were primarily informal. Eight percent reported using an equal number of formal and informal programs and the remaining 12% failed to respond to this particular question. Government-based agencies managed 54% of formal, 47% of informal, and 43% of mixed programs. This indicates that government agencies play a large role in Texas EE programs. By changing state education policy concerning EE we can positively influence in-school as well as out-of-school programs. However, in order to make policy changes, we must first identify the status of EE within state infrastructure. Through this project we hope to discover state-wide trends that will catalyze changes in Texas education policy; ultimately leading to education standards designed to create a knowledgeable voting public concerning our environment and natural resources.

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