Analysis of An Informal Water Education Program
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The availability of sufficient water to provide for economic growth, population, and the environment is the most critical natural resource issue facing Texas in the coming generation. Recent studies indicate that the State's population will nearly double in the next fifty years and yet we have already allocated more water for use from many of our rivers than is actually in them. Additional research has shown that achieving resource sustainability in society will require a greater understanding of the interconnections between the environment, economy and society that is present in an increasingly urban population today. An important delivery system for the education necessary to achieve such understanding can be found in informal educational programs offered at venues including outdoor nature centers, parks and other natural settings. One such program has been conducted for a number of years at Aquarena Center located at the Headwaters of the San Marcos River on the Campus of Texas State University. At Aquarena Center, as elsewhere, little research has been conducted to reveal the impact of water education programs, both in terms of the transfer of content knowledge and the impact of such programs on the participants. A mixed methods study approach was used to attempt to measure the impact upon middle and high school students attending informal water education programs at Aquarena Center. Data were gathered using surveys and interviews with teachers accompanying students to the site. Significant results were discovered in measuring content knowledge among students before and after the informal educational experience and important insights were gained from in-depth interviews with teachers as to the effectiveness and relevance of the program itself. These findings will help strengthen the informal educational offering at Aquarena Center and contribute to continuing efforts among educators as to the delivery of active and experiential learning to inspire students to connect with their environment, particularly in the face of looming water scarcity.