To measure the success of some recently funded ecology education projects, the Diack Program distributed a survey. The results confirmed what many already knew. Out of 56 surveys, 49 teachers noted a positive change in their student’s attitude toward school, 19 acknowledged an improvement in student’s attendance, 28 noticed increased parental involvement, 35 surveys stated that principals and other staff became more interested in the project, and 37 teachers agreed that their outdoor ecology project improved their own attitude for teaching. Why? Because learning in the outdoors is authentic, engaging and in the words of Astoria High School Teacher Allan Garvin, “Field studies are exciting.”
At its heart, the goal of education reform is to improve learning. To accomplish this, reformers are urging educators to provide community based real world experiences, utilize hands-on, cooperative learning approaches to engage students in their own learning process, focus on critical-thinking, problem solving skills, replace the traditional, compartmentalized subjects with an interdisciplinary curriculum, and set higher academic standards with performance based assessments. An ecology education program employs all of these approaches and can increase student interest and participation in school.
The following pages highlight ten separate projects of outstanding merit. The Diack Program chose these projects to emphasize the positive changes that ecology education can make when intertwined within a school curriculum. We encourage you to read their stories, find similarities within your own situation and look for ways to integrate authentic studies of the natural world into your student’s learning experience.