Integrated Environmental and Outdoor Education in Grades 7-12
$300,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of education in cooperation with the commissioner of natural resources to train and support grade 7-12 teachers to integrate environmental and outdoor education into the instruction of academic standards.
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Trends amongst youth are showing declining participation in outdoor recreation, a decreased understanding of the natural world, and a shift to a more sedentary lifestyle. Through this appropriation, the Minnesota Department of Education is working to combat these trends while also improving the achievement of students in grades 7-12. Professional development and grants for innovative programs are being provided to help teachers use the environment and outdoors as a context for student learning in science, mathematics, social studies, and physical education.
OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS
With research indicating that students are increasingly disconnected from nature, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources was funded to hire a full-time coordinator to lead a project to train and support grade 7-12 teachers to integrate environmental and outdoor education (EOE) into the instruction of academic standards. Professional development and grants of up to $8,500 were provided to six pilot schools to support 50 teachers and administrators in their use of the environment and outdoors as a context for student learning, which resulted in engaging over 1,000 students in EOE on a regular basis. A full report of the project, including evaluation of the training and student learning and model lessons, was submitted to LCCMR.
Beyond the original goals of the project, the project coordinator also developed partnerships with several EOE providers to coordinate and offer five, additional, day-long regional workshops at minimal cost that were attended by 108 additional educators not from the pilot schools.
The project coordinator also developed and implemented Minnesota's participation in the first two years of the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Program that recognizes schools for efforts to reduce their environmental impact and implement EOE throughout their curriculum. Minnesota led the nation with the most applicants in 2013 and seven Minnesota schools and districts were among 156 schools that received the national award to date. Workshops led by the coordinator at the sites of Minnesota's three 2012 national honorees were attended by over 100 people.
A position at MDE to integrate EOE has provided credibility and prioritization of EOE at Minnesota schools and within the department. It has resulted in better coordination among Minnesota's many EOE providers and plans exist for future coordination with MDE standards and health program staff.
PROJECT RESULTS USE AND DISSEMINATION
Information about the project, including the final report and model lessons, will be posted on the SEEK (Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge) website at www.seek.state.mn.us, hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
In addition to the numerous EOE workshops and training led by the coordinator, the coordinator has directly reached over 2,300 other educators through technical assistance and teaching, including participating in several workshops, programs and events. The coordinator also made regular efforts to promote activities related to the project and the benefits of environmental and outdoor education whenever possible throughout the duration of the project. EOE information, resources and achievements, such as the Green Ribbon Schools honorees, were regularly shared through MDE's Superintendents mailings and department listserves, and newsletters and listserves by SEEK, Minnesota Association for Environmental Education, Minnesota Science Teachers Association, Green Schools Coalition, Children and Nature Connection, Minnesota Sustainable Communities Network and many others.
The coordinator had occasional opportunities to do some media activities, including a 20 minute interview about the value of EOE on the April 1, 2013 show of the podcast, Mom Enough, which has a national following of several thousand listeners. The interview can be found at http://momenough.com/2013/04/lets-get-outside-tips-for-parents-and-teachers-from-an-environmental-educator-and-creative-dad. Local media from the communities of the pilot schools and Green Ribbon School honorees also developed news stories covering the value of EOE activities.
The introductory EOE regional workshops developed with the DNR, Jeffers Foundation and other local partners have led to additional opportunities for coordinated workshops. In particular, the Jeffers Foundation has expressed interest in continuing to work with MDE on future workshops patterned after those developed during the project.
The evaluation of the project, which was conducted by Dr. Julie Ernst, University of Minnesota - Duluth, was a great opportunity for her to expand on her nationally-recognized environmental education research. She is hoping to publish a research paper at some point summarizing the evaluation of the project, which will hopefully help inform and guide future research in the field.