A study to address the effectiveness of environmental economic education programs conducted by PERC (Political Economy Research Center)
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Environmental education is a topic that has received increased attention over the last three decades. Its goal is to develop citizens, informed of environmental issues, who are willing to take action in order to promote healthy, environmentally safe actions and behavior. A Bozeman based organization named Political Economy Research Center, (PERC), has added the theory of economics to the environmental philosophy. Jane Shaw, Senior Associate at PERC and author of Facts Not Fears: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment, supports the partnership of economics and environmentalism in this quote: Economics teaches us about human behavior--the "rest of the story." It sheds light on why we have pollution problems and why some proposed solutions won't work. (1996) PERC has been conducting teacher inservice seminars over the last few years in an attempt to spread the environmental economic word. The study was conducted to measure the outcomes of these seminars. The major purpose of this study was to determine how attendance of PERC environmental economic programs affected educators' attitudes toward environmental and economic issues. The majority of the respondents worked in a secondary (grades 9-12) school and had attended 1-2 days of PERC training. Returned surveys were grouped by the amount of environmental economic training the respondent had received. Five categories developed-1 hour, 1-4 hours, 1 day, 1-2 days, more than 2 days, and summer conference 1997 participants. (It should be noted that a return rate of 76% was received from this last group.) Overall, the respondents responded positively to the theories of environmental economics. Ninety-nine percent of the respondents felt that environmental economics should be integrated into the class they teach. Responses to another question indicated that PERC programs were successful in supplying specific materials to help teachers integrate the concepts of environmental economics into their classroom for 85% (137 of the 167 respondents) of the teachers. The respondents that felt inadequately prepared were the ones who had only attended 1 hour or 1-4 hours of training. The participants that had attended more training felt better prepared. When respondents were specifically asked about the use of "market solutions" to solve environmental problems the majority (59%) of the respondents agreed with the statement, while 40% strongly agreed. It should also be noted that 100% of those who participated in the 1997 summer conference agreed with the "market solutions" statement. Participants were also asked if they were successful in integrating environmental economic concepts into their classes. The survey indicated that the participants who received the most training were the most successful in integrating environmental economics into their curriculum. Only 14% of the 1 hour participants have been successful in integrating while 48% of those with 1-4 hours of training have integrated the concepts of environmental economics. This percentage increases as the training increases. The remainder of the groups, 1-2 days, >2 days, and 1997 Summer conference expressed a successful integration percentage of 71 %,83%, and 81% respectfully. The overall percentage of successful environmental economic integration is 67%. In conclusion, PERC programs were well received. Teachers indicated an appreciation for the alternative way to evaluate environmental concerns and look forward to further information on environmental economics.