5D.6 Assessing environmental literacy through the implementation of the Florida department of environmental protection's learning in Florida's environment (LIFE) program

Friday, 13 November 2009: 3:20 PM
Rhianna M. Neely, Environmental Cooperative Science Center, Tallahassee, FL; and M. A. Owens

A major goal of many outdoor environmental education programs is to produce environmentally literate citizens. Through assessing environmental literacy (EL), this study evaluated the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Learning in Florida's Environment (LIFE) program. The LIFE program generally targets low performing middle schools or schools including middle school grades (5-8), many of which are in rural areas, and/ or schools in which the general population consists of students from low income families. Through LIFE, the teachers and students of the participating Florida schools have the opportunity to work alongside scientists, researchers and rangers in participating Florida state parks close to their respective schools. The program runs for the duration of the school year and covers science and environmental science topics, but also includes other subjects in the State of Florida core curriculum. The LIFE program seeks to meet its goals by creating a curriculum that meets Sunshine State Standards (SSS) in mathematics, science, English skills and social science.

The study shows the need for the overall evaluation and possible revision of environmental education programs, their funding and improvement in rural areas, as well as in the areas where the state's poor and minority populations reside. A major evaluation component examined the effectiveness of the in-service teacher training as provided by the LIFE program. In-service training activities and associated volunteer activities help to equip teachers, to stress the link between the students' daily lifestyle and the needs of the environment. Another evaluation component examined the direct effect on student learning through the components of environmental literacy, namely, cognitive knowledge, affective, behavior, and attitudes toward the environment.

Results of this study, using the environmental literacy components as dependent variables and the demographic characteristics of the participants as independent variables, were minimally statistically significant. Sixteen (16) of the 50 subscale components analyzed in this study, yielded statistically significant results. Eight of those 16 stemming from the Affective subscale. The results of this study may be used to illustrate what may result when EE programs are not designed and or implemented effectively.

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