Effect of outdoor education methods and strategies on student engagement in science : a descriptive study

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


Keystone Science School (KSS) is a residential outdoor education facility set high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Initially as a classroom teacher in a nearby town, I observed first-hand the positive impact of experiences had by my students at KSS on their attitudes toward learning science. This research was designed as a descriptive study to analyze how KSS uses outdoor methods and strategies to positively effect student attitudes toward learning science. Over the course of several weeks, participating students and teachers were surveyed about their experiences (typically 3-day/2-night) at Keystone Science School. Instructors and field groups were also observed on several occasions to analyze the degree to which particular methods and strategies were being employed, and their effectiveness on student interest and engagement in science. The results suggest that with an overwhelming positive view from students and teachers about the effectiveness of their outdoor learning experiences, student age, student gender, and instructor gender had some effect on these attitudes. Boys tended to be slightly more comfortable learning outdoors than girls, and younger students (ages 9-11) generally more comfortable than older students (ages 12-14) especially among girls. Students also reported being slightly more comfortable learning outdoors with male instructors, and tended to rate the abilities of male instructors slightly higher. The findings of this result support the conclusion that methods and strategies used in outdoor education are more effective at developing positive attitudes toward learning science than typical classroom experiences.




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