High-impact environmental education and our future scientists: what we can learn from the GreenBox program
In a world that faces increasingly complex environmental challenges, the need for scientific literacy is more pronounced than ever. Looking to these challenges, the way we envision the “future of science” needs to extend beyond the scientific community to incorporate our potential future scientists, young people, and even their communities. The thrust behind the Desert Research Institute’s work in environmental education is the question “how do we create lifelong learning and lifelong learners?” Our hypothesis is that high-impact STEM education has a long-term, resounding impact when participants not only experience science in a direct way, but also interact and participate in it. Our model for high-impact experiential environmental education combines affective learning, science theory and education pedagogy, and practical ecological and economic applications to prepare future scientists to be innovate, inspire and integrate their work across different sectors and communities. Currently, DRI’s GreenBox program works to advance teaching and learning by providing teacher training, curriculum, materials and activities for educators, by educators. Boxes are vetted by experts in each respective field. The core of the GreenBox program is the belief that the future of science lies in connecting the scientists of today and the scientists of the future. GreenBoxes are cost-free for teachers in the state of Nevada preparing students for future STEM careers.
In 2014, the GreenBox program impacted more than 250 schools, 300 educators and 12,000 students in science-based education and learning statewide. The “what works” of the GreenBox program, based on teacher feedback and shared in this poster, is valuable learning for other science outreach and environmental educators. Based on the achievements of the GreenBox program, the following proposed future ideas are also presented on this poster to demonstrate where we believe cutting-edge environmental education can go: an interactive massive online open course (MOOC) to extend GreenPower teacher training nationally and internationally, a longitudinal study examining the impact of GreenBoxes on teacher empowerment and science engagement of students, and virtual education techniques for leaders in natural resource management communities for resilience and community welfare.