Exploring the Effects of a STEM Integrated Program Experience on Girl Scouts' Pro-Environmental Intentions
Youth have a natural curiosity about the world around them. However, even with this curiosity and the known benefits to spending time outdoors, many youth do not spend much time outdoors; they spend a majority of their time indoors. Through programming relating to a real-world problem, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) integrated programming, youth can begin develop an appreciation for the world around them by learning and by having an interest in spending more time outdoors. By spending more time in the outdoors, youth may develop a stronger connection to their environment, which is important in this time of increasing global challenges and a disconnect with the natural environment. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the effects of a STEM integrated non-formal program, with an outdoor experience, on Girl Scouts' pro-environmental intentions. This study took place over six weeks in the fall of 2017 with two groups, control and treatment, with 25 total participants (14 control, 11 treatment). The control group completed their program entirely indoors, while the treatment group had a portion of outdoor exploration time each week along with their indoor lesson. The researcher looked to compare differences in interest, engagement (affective, behavioral, and cognitive), and intentions to participate in pro-environmental behaviors between the control and treatment group. Girl Scout participants completed a three point Likert scale pre- and post- program questionnaire, which was developed through examination of literature relating to environmental education, engagement, and interest. Girls from both groups were interviewed following completion of the program to learn more about their experiences with the program and what motivated them to have intentions to participate in pro-environmental behaviors. There were four conclusions to this study. First, Girl Scout participants, both control and treatment groups, described being more interested in nature and the outdoors after participating in this STEM integrated program. Second, Girl Scout participants in both the control and treatment group for the STEM integrated program were cognitively engaged and the girls in the treatment group with the outdoor experience were behaviorally engaged when compared to their peers that had their program entirely indoors. Third, Girl Scout participants in both the control and treatment groups described similarly positive views toward their intentions to participate in pro-environmental behaviors. Lastly, Girl Scout participants in both groups shared positive experiences during the STEM integrated program, and described the parts of the program that motivated them to participate in outdoor activities and pro-environmental behaviors. The results of this study indicate that STEM integrated programming may be a link between youth and interest in the outdoors. Regardless of whether Girl Scout participants spent time outdoors during their program, all participants were interested in the outdoors and had intentions to participate in pro-environmental behaviors. Future research might focus on providing a more in-depth program experience, specifically regarding the length of the program and the amount of time youth were outdoors. Continuing to examine the interactions between STEM and environmental education would be an area of investigation following this exploratory study.
Knobloch, Purdue University.
Mathematics education|Environmental education|Science education
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