Our River Project: Exploring the Efficacy of Field Trips to Positively Influence Children's Attitudes Toward Science and Conservation
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Studies have shown experiential learning to be an effective instructional strategy, particularly for science education. Likewise, outdoor education has been shown to improve children’s mental and physical health, and environmental education seems to make children more likely to choose environmentally sound practices, even into adulthood. Field trips that teach biology in outdoor spaces unify these benefits. The Our River Project was an effort to create such a field trip opportunity for upper elementary students in San Marcos, Texas and determine if it makes a difference for our students. Working in conjunction with the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan and Travis Elementary School, a day-long field trip for 4th graders that focuses on river ecosystems and water conservation was designed, implemented, and studied. The efficacy of Our River field trips were tested using a mixed-methods pre-test/post-test research design; before and after the field trip, students took a survey that measured conservation attitudes, science attitudes, and TEKS curriculum knowledge. It was hypothesized that these field trips would create more positive attitudes toward science and conservation and increased scores on relevant standardized test questions. Quantitative data showed little change in these categories, so these hypotheses could not be supported. However, the qualitative results showed promising growth and enthusiasm in the students who participated in the field trip, so further research is recommended for this topic.