Are We Making a Difference?
Every year when it comes time for the federation to update our long-term goals, the education team takes a closer look at the work it has done to decide the best ways for moving forward. The bottom line question we ask ourselves over and over is: How do we make sure our work gives meaningful results?
With an educator in each region, we work to give outreach programs to the entire coast of North Carolina, a mighty task for a select few employees. We question ourselves each year. Is what we’re doing really working?
Over the years we have seen that by working with the same students multiple times throughout a school year, the kids are more engaged and more likely to be inspired stewards. At the beginning of the school year the students are given a short questionnaire to test their knowledge on the information the educators plan to cover during lessons, activities and field trips. After the students participate in these events either during rain garden projects or the Student Wetland Nursery Program, the students are given the exact same set of questions at the end of the school year. By comparing the beginning and end of year results we hope to see improvement as a result of our educational programming.
A student collects seeds for the Students Wetland Nursery Program.
I did this with one of my wetland nursery schools this year, giving a 10-question poll to three different classes of students. Half of the questions were multiple choice and half were true/false. On the pre-quiz the students’ averaged a score of 55 percent compared to the post-quiz average of 81 percent. The students’ improved test scores do indicate that my work is achieving meaningful results. But how meaningful is a 26-point increase in test scores? Do these results on paper mean anything for environmental stewardship?
Looking at the questions most frequently missed on the post quiz will help me see areas of opportunity to adjust my lessons and teaching techniques for the next school year. Surprisingly the one question that seemed toughest for the students to answer asked them to identify which river basin they lived in, selecting from a list of four choices. It makes me wonder if the students forgot this answer because we talked about it months ago, during one of my first classroom lessons. Or is it that I did not explain the concept of watersheds well enough for them to understand? There are many loop holes in our simple evaluation tool, but for now it’s all I have to rely on.
I was recently helping our coastal scientist take some monitoring surveys along the shoreline of our Springer’s Point restoration project on Ocracoke. A family on vacation was kayaking nearby and came onto shore to explore the nature preserve and investigate what we were doing. While they were walking towards us the youngest member of the family shouted, “Look Mom, scientists!” This made me and Erin smile. Are we making a difference? We think so, yes.
--- Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator