Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Life as a sober citizen: Aldo Leopold's Wildlife Ecology 118
by Theiss, Nancy Stearns, Ph.D., University of Louisville, 2009, 322; 3381940
Abstract (Summary)

This historic case study addressed the issue of the lack of citizen action toward environmentally responsible behavior. Although there have been studies regarding components of environmental responsible behavior [ERB], there has been little focus on historic models of exemplary figures of ERB. This study examined one of the first conservation courses in the United States, Wildlife Ecology 118, taught by Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) for 13 years at the University of Wisconsin. Today, Aldo Leopold is recognized as an exemplary conservationist whose land ethic is cited as providing the ecological approach needed for understanding the complex issues of modern society.

The researcher conjectured that examination of one of the first environmental education courses could support and strengthen environmental education practices by providing a heuristic perspective. The researcher used two different strategies for analysis of the case. For Research Question One—“What were Leopold's teaching strategies in Wildlife Ecology 118?”—the researcher used methods of comparative historical analysis. The researcher examined the learning outcomes that Leopold used in Wildlife Ecology 118 and compared them against a rubric of the Four Strands for Environmental Education (North American Association for Environmental Education [NAAEE], 1999). The Four Strands for Environmental Education are the current teaching strategies used by educators. The results indicated that Wildlife Ecology 118 scored high in Knowledge of Processes and Systems and Environmental Problem Solving strands. Leopold relied on historic case examples and animal biographies to build stories that engaged students. Field trips gave students practical experience for environmental knowledge with special emphasis on phenology.

For Research Question Two—“What was the context of the lessons in Wildlife Ecology 118?”—the researcher used environmental history methods for analysis. Context provided the knowledge and understanding of Leopold's choices for developing lessons that he thought would engage students to become environmentally responsible citizens. The contexts were grouped into four categories: (a) work and research related, (b) professional development, (c) leisure and, (d) public service. There were five themes that emerged from the course contexts: (a) case histories, (b) animal biographies, (c) phenology application, (d) food chains, and (e) ecosystems.

The results of the study indicated that Wildlife Ecology 118 ranks high in areas of environmental problem solving and knowledge of processes and systems. Both of the areas are often difficult for educators to incorporate in their lessons. Through case histories, animal biographies, phenology, ecological diagrams, ecosystem comparisons and field trips, Leopold provides many examples that can be easily updated and used in current classroom practices, both in K–12 and college levels.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor:
Commitee:
School: University of Louisville
School Location: United States -- Kentucky
Source: DAI-A 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Environmental education, Education history, Science education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Environmental education, Environmental history, Leopold, Aldo, Wildlife Ecology 118
Publication Number: 3381940
ISBN: 9781109429909
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