Effect of environment as integrating concept methodology on living environment students with learning differences
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Hastings High School is a small high school of approximately 600 students. As a special education teacher specializing in the sciences, the engagement level and academic success of students with learning differences was a concern for me. The general disconnect of students from nature and the practical, real-life applications of scientific knowledge was also a concern. I introduced elements of outdoor education to my special science classes over the last five years and the impact of these experiences on my students was dramatically positive. This research project was designed to determine the impact of outdoor education on students' assessment results and engagement level. It was important to prove that the time investment of outdoor education would have a negligible or positive impact on high stakes, high school exit exams. Students were exposed to Environment as Integrating Concept methodology from December to April of the school year. Students had one to two outdoor education experiences each month in local environments and related to local environmental issues. They were exposed to one treatment/outdoor education unit and the results of this unit was correlated with the results of one similar, non-treatment/traditional unit and a unit that incorporated both teaching methods. Longitudinal data was also collected. The results of the study indicated dramatically improved engagement and motivation levels among the students, and limited improvement in content understanding. Students without executive functioning disabilities benefitted more from the outdoor experiences.