45 Years of Outdoor Education: Assessing the long-term impact. Kendra Liddicoat Jim Rogers Marianne Krasny Cornell University Bradford Woods Cornell University
A 3-day residential outdoor education program for all 5th graders from the Martinsville, Indiana Began in 1958 as a day program. Became residential in 1961. Developed and led by local teachers and principals.
Research Objectives • To investigate what adults remember of a 5th grade residential outdoor environmental education experience. • To assess program impact. • To consider what types of activities, experiences, and settings encourage long-term memory and impact.
Background Retrospective Studies • emphasize active childhood experiences in nature • adult mentors • positive and negative environmental experiences Program Evaluations • mixed results • primarily short-term
Concepts to Explore Sense of Place Challenge/Novelty Residential Setting Memories Turning Point
Methods: Data Collection Background Research Interviewed 7 former and current teachers/directors Reviewed documents Participant Interviews Recruited through ads, emails, events, and interviewee recommendations (snowball sampling) Semi-structured in-person interviews lasting 20-40 minutes each Youth Questionnaires: Distributed questionnaires to approximately 120 12thgraders and 120 8th graders. 50 returned completed.
Methods: Sample Characteristics 1958-1965: 11 1968-1973: 13 1978-1982: 10 1990-1992: 11 Females: 33, Males: 14 Representatives of all nine Martinsville elementary schools Half volunteers, half recommended Varying professions, levels of education, leisure interests, environmental perspectives
Methods: Data Analysis Content Analysis: Taped and transcribed all interviews Typed all questionnaire responses Read repeatedly, coded and sorted quotes, looked for emergent themes Member Checks: Shared and discussed results with former teachers, Bradford Woods staff, and community members Familiarity with the Setting
What just came to mind? Sleeping in the tents ** Being outdoors Staying away from home/parents Spending time with friends Program leaders and teachers * Learning and measuring trees/plants ** Panning for gold * Rainbow Trail and Pin The dining hall and being a hopper * Campfires, night hikes and star gazing
An Overnight with Friends • First time camping or staying away from home without family. • Bonding in small living groups without adults. • Spending time with one’s class before leaving elementary school and making new friends for middle school. • Remember the dining hall as a time of warmth, good food, conversations, and awards. True across genders and decades
Memorable Teachers • Many mentions of the program leaders • Commented on preparation in the classroom, instruction at Bradford Woods • Saw teachers in a new setting, new light
Memorable Teachers “And when you’re a kid it’s like when you go away from school the teachers…go underneath a baseboard or something and they were there at Bradford Woods after school hours with you, at night and in the early morning.” “I remember my teacher wore slacks and see back then girls had to wear dresses to school. And the teacher came in pants, I’d never seen a teacher not in a dress, so to me that was real cool.”
Started in the early 1960s and continued until 1999. • A source of pride/status and an incentive for learning. • Fostered individual interaction with teachers and helping other students. Only 5 people did not remember the Rainbow Program and 8 people said they still have their Rainbow Badge! 10 species named, 7 explanations of how to measure a tree.
Youth Memories • Learning trees and plants • Earning ribbons (rainbow badge) • Staying in the tents • Singing • Campfires and night hikes (lifesavers & stars) • Hopper duty and yuck • Being with friends • Wildlife games • Hiking
Stated Impacts Gained independence and felt more grown up. Bonded with classmates and met new people. Learned trees and shared this knowledge with parents and now their children. Trees were more memorable and useful later. Became generally more aware of local nature, of preserving natural areas, and of not littering. Choose to camp now or to live in the country. Those who said it didn’t really impact them “just had fun.” Different impacts on kids from city and rural areas.
Stated Impacts “I grew up out in the country, so being outdoors wasn’t a new experience for me, but [I enjoyed] finding out all the things you could learn about the plants…I remember that impressing me…[as] something you wouldn’t know unless you had had that experience at Bradford Woods“ (1971). “It really made me appreciate nature…I’d been pretty much a city kid. And to actually get out into the woods and you know, walk on something that wasn’t concrete or asphalt, see trees where you can see more than ten planted in a row. It made me realize that I wanted to live in the country when I got older” (1972).
Youth Impacts Yes (36 students) • Learned about nature • Created good memories • Time with friends and meeting new people • Grew up through the experience • Know specific things like trees, the big dipper, and not wasting food No (10 students) • Just had fun • Already knew about the woods
Environmental Behaviors • Outdoor Recreation (33) • Not littering (27) • Conserving electricity (25) • Saving water (19) • Buying local food (17) • Tent camping (17) • Gardening (16) • Birding or nature study (11) • Walking or biking to save gas (11) • Hunting or fishing (10) • Reading about nature or environmental issues (9) • Teaching about nature (9) • Volunteering at a park (8) • Member of an environmental organization (4) • Advocating for environmental practices (4)
Environmental Attitudes Prefaced by… “I’m not a tree hugger or an extremist” • Stewardship of God’s creation. • Concerns about land development. • Concerns about consumption, trash production. • Mentions of recycling. • Object to littering. • Concerns about gas/utility prices. • Want to know more and get the facts.
Program Goals “For the class, the resident outdoor education experience provides a culminating activity toward which pupils can work. Another positive value is the cohesiveness and unity of spirit that results when individuals are pursuing a common goal. In the 24-hour-a-day setting, children are provided the opportunity to develop a certain amount of independence and self-reliance in assuming responsibility for their own well-being.” (Hammerman & Hammerman 1973) “We wanted the kids to come away with an appreciation for the outdoors…the majority of the kids were from in town…maybe [they had] never really been in out in the woods, so it was an opportunity for them to gain some appreciation…and hopefully instill a sense of stewardship for places like that.” –director 1973-1981
Concepts Explored Challenge/Novelty Sense of Place Residential Setting Memories Turning Point Community
Reflections • Using the overnight experience. • Considering student age and program length. • Creating memories. • Balancing tradition, community expectations, and innovation. • Creatively linking with school and home. • Designing appropriate evaluations.
Future Directions • Expand to a comparative study. • Tease apart possible impacts of local and novel (day or residential) programs. • Consider current practices and future directions of ROEE.
“I’m awed by how for a two-day span of time, I probably have an awful lot of memories that occurred such a long time ago. Which sort of surprises me…you know looking back on it, there was a lot of things I did in school that I don’t remember any better than that.” –student, 1961 Thanks to All who participated in the study and Jerry Sanders, MSDM Teachers and principals of MHS, EMS, WMS Bradford Woods staff Cornell faculty and graduate students US EPA NNEMS Program for funding