Mary Jo Kosco

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Marylin Lisowski


The outdoor environment has the potential to serve as a teeming laboratory with numerous opportunities for students to study various science-related phenomena and processes. However important teachers deem outdoor experiences in science, they also bear doubts about their abilities to teach in these natural surroundings. Providing teachers with the training necessary to teach using field-based activities would help develop and strengthen the teachers' and consequently their students' interest in science, their background knowledge of basic science concepts and processes and possibly affect their behaviors towards the environment. This study was designed to measure the extent science teachers' field-based learning experiences affected their pedagogical effectiveness, the frequency of their field offerings and their students' attitudes, knowledge and behaviors relating to science and environmental education. The subjects of the study were middle school and secondary education teachers (N=100) and middle school and secondary level students (N=270). The teachers participated in a program entitled PLAN-IT EARTH (Pairing Learners And Nature with Innovative Technology for the Environmental Assessment of Resources, Trends and Habitats). They took part in an intense weeklong residential workshop during the summer pertaining to training techniques and activities that focused on field-based teaching techniques and innovative instructional strategies. The program design was based on a developmental framework of exploration, concept introduction and application exercises. The teachers answered a preliminary survey before beginning their training. These data were compared with questionnaires filled out after the training and five months into the program (February and March of a regular school year). Randomly selected portfolios, which all the teachers in the program were required to keep, were viewed and evaluated. Interviews were also conducted with randomly selected teachers (n=5). The middle school and secondary students completed instruments which measured their attitudes towards science, learning methods their teachers implemented, their favorite subject areas and their feelings about learning in the outdoors. Randomly selected students (n=7) were also interviewed about their favorite methods of learning science and how their perceptions of education and the environment. Results indicated that a high percentage of teachers utilized a large number of the teaching methods indicated on the survey. There was a higher ranking of "extensive" use of teaching methods on the posttest than were on the pretest. Teaching in the outdoors and using field trip excursions were both high ranking methods. It was concluded based on the results of the survey that teachers incorporated teaching in the outdoors more frequently after their training. Also concluded by student surveys and student interviews, was that field-based activities fostered positive attitudes about the environment and the educational means on how to improve their surroundings. Students involved in the study overwhelmingly rated science as their favorite subject and ranked field trips/field activities as their most preferred method of learning.