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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Efficacy of an experiential, in-school educational program for improving elementary school students' attitudes and knowledge about the environment
by Burger, Leslie M., Ph.D., Mississippi State University, 2014, 150; 3665462
Abstract (Summary)

Stagnant science achievement by students, greater demands and stresses on natural resources and environmental systems, and societal disengagement from nature highlight the need for education programs to ameliorate subsequent consequences. One attempt to address science performance and environmental apathy is Youth Environmental Science (YES), an environmental education program initiated in 2011 in a rural, minority-dominated, upper elementary school in Mississippi. The program provides five consecutive days (30 hours) of experiential learning in natural sciences. During 2011-2013, I studied cognitive and affective responses of fourth and fifth grade students to YES participation using a pretest-posttest-delayed posttest design. The influence of demographic factors (race/ethnicity, gender, and economic status) on student responses was also examined.

Compared to pretest scores, posttest knowledge and attitude scores were higher for YES participants, indicating the pedagogy was effective at promoting knowledge gains and positive environmental attitudes. Higher values were associated with female, non-Black, or higher income students; however, gains in both knowledge and attitude were similar across all demographic groupings, suggesting students from diverse backgrounds benefitted equally. Year-end proficiency exams indicated natural science knowledge gained by fourth and fifth grade students during their participation in YES did not decline with time, demonstrating retention and application of content knowledge. Moreover, although Black and low income fifth grade students had lower proficiency scores, these groups showed generally increasing trends in exam performance with elapsed time. This pattern suggests experiential and intensive environmental education interventions scheduled early in the academic year may be effective for sensitizing students for classroom learning that follows later in the year. This may be particularly impactful to those students who may experience fewer science enrichment and outdoor opportunities and thereby provide a mechanism for reducing achievement gaps among demographic groups.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Riffell, Samuel K.
Commitee: Dibble, Eric D., Jones, Walter D., Pope, Margaret, Tegt, Jessica L.
School: Mississippi State University
Department: Wildlife and Fisheries
School Location: United States -- Mississippi
Source: DAI-A 76/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Wildlife Conservation, Environmental education, Elementary education
Keywords: Achievement gap, Conservation education, Elementary science education, Environmental education
Publication Number: 3665462
ISBN: 978-1-321-38018-7
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