Urban environmental education: Leveraging technology and ecology to engage students in studying the environment

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In this paper, we describe the outcomes of the first year of an intensive, urban ecology focused, summer program for urban high school youth. Students in our program conduct scientific investigations of their urban ecosystems while exploring potential career options in science and technology fields. In conducting their investigations, the students used geographic information systems (GIS) coupled with computer modeling tools and visualization software to explore the ecological services provided by their urban forest canopy and the impact of urban noise upon birdsong. The goal of the program was to improve students' self-efficacy toward science and their sense of environmental stewardship. To that end, we conducted pre-post surveys of students on their beliefs regarding their (1) science self-efficacy, (2) science interest, (3) environmental stewardship and (4) career knowledge and career awareness. In this paper, we focus our discussion on the first three outcomes and found that participation in our program significantly improved students' science self-efficacy and environmental stewardship. We found that by engaging students in locally, focused, in-depth and targeted environmental science investigations, students could develop the confidence to investigate and solve local problems that increased their confidence in their ability to do and study science.


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Michael Barnett, Meredith Houle Vaughn, Eric Strauss & Lindsey Cotter (2011) Urban environmental education: leveraging technology and ecology to engage students in studying the environment, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 20:3, 199-214, DOI: 10.1080/10382046.2011.588501