PS 12-57 - Assessment of student’s environmental literacy in a STEM based outdoor education summer program

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Coral E. Aviles-Santiago, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Texas Tech University, Junction, TX

Natural resources management is a critical issue for present and future generations of Texans, especially with a projected doubling of population in the next 40 years. An ecologically literate public will be needed to make informed decisions as water and other natural resources become limited. Yet, >90% of Texans will live in urban areas and children will have increasingly little contact with nature. The disconnect between children and nature has important health and career ramifications (Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods). There is a growing need to evaluate how environmental education programs are improving environmental literacy in the participants. For my ESA SEEDS SPUR internship I evaluated the impact on environmental literacy of 4 groups attending the Texas Tech University Llano River Field Station’s Outdoor School. LRFS’s Outdoor School (OS) is internationally recognized as a Texas Exemplar Program using standards based, transdisciplinary multiple best learning practices and GLOBE protocols instruction. I used a mixed methods research design to evaluate changes in environmental literacy for a Brazilian students’ group and 3 Texas students’ groups. I hypothesized that the Outdoor School’s experience would lead to improved scores in areas of general environmental literacy knowledge, awareness, interest and OS curriculum knowledge.


Results showed noticeable differences in environmental literacy within different groups. For both Brazil and US students, females showed a greater increase than males in all the EL categories. Another interesting finding is that students that hadn’t participated in outdoor education before showed greater increase in all EL categories, compared to students that had. In contrast, I found no detectable differences between ethnicities. One limitation in this study is that time didn’t allow for additional school replications. International students that live in bigger urban areas tend to show low environmental literacy scores. That’s why places and educational experiences like the Outdoor School are needed to combat the outbreak of Richard Louv’s Nature Deficit Disorder in children, caused by the disconnect to nature in our growing urban societies.