Studying science in the outdoors influences student interest, engagement, and cognition
Dean, Kimberly Jane
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Lack of motivation and engagement are common problems among middle school students. In addition, I am often shocked to hear how many of my students have never visited any of the six ski resorts less than an hour's drive away, never gone canoeing, no time spent hiking, camping or participating in the kinds of outdoor activities that our state, Utah, is famous for. The lack of time spent in the natural world can inhibit students' understanding of their local environments and their ability to connect what they are learning in science classes with outdoor and relatively natural ecosystems. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of streamside field experiences on the engagement of middle school students. Sub questions investigated if studying Utah's watersheds and water quality issues in the field and the classroom helped students increase their knowledge and awareness of water quality and water science and whether time spent in nature impacted students' attitudes about protecting streams. The research followed eighth grade students through three field trips, one snowshoeing at a local mountain campground, and two monitoring water quality and canoeing at a local river. Data collection included pre and posttests, science motivation questionnaire, science attitude survey, student interviews, and a teacher's journal. Data collection was collected before and after treatments to monitor changes throughout the process. The research indicated that there was a positive relationship between my response variables: student interest, engagement, and achievement and my intervention variable of: time spent learning science outdoors.