Capitalizing on Digital Tools to Expand Environmental Literacy Around Coastal Resources

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Project Type: 
Research
Project Number: 
R/ELWD-1
Inception Date: 
2016
Completion Date: 
2017

Participants:

Annette Schloss University of New Hampshire Principal Investigator
Erik Froburg University of New Hampshire Co-Principal Investigator
Alyson Eberhardt N.H. Sea Grant Co-Principal Investigator
Abstract: 

This proposal addresses environmental literacy and workforce development. The project will design and assess the effectiveness of virtual techniques and collaboration with volunteers for engaging learners in salt marsh studies. The project will leverage existing connections between N.H. Sea Grant and N.H. schools (Eberhardt) and successful teacher professional development programs carried out and evaluated by the UNH Leitzel Center for STEM Education (Froburg, Schloss, Gengarelly). The project will design and test out field-based and virtual methods for collecting, analyzing, and sharing data for monitoring the health of the salt marsh to be carried out by students, coastal volunteers and Marine Docents. Techniques will be assessed for their usefulness in characterizing the salt marsh and for their ability to engage people who cannot visit the site in person by interacting with remotely collected data. The program will be carried out in four middle-school classrooms, two each with and without the ability to take students to the salt marsh. Classrooms will be paired and student engagement in authentic research and in coastal resource awareness will be evaluated in each instance. A new Marsh Field Docent program will be developed and assessed, along with a program to engage volunteers in collecting repeat digital photographic data at to-be-determined Picture Post sites. The project evaluation report and middle-school curriculum will be disseminated through the Leitzel Center. The expected outcomes of the project are:

1. Local schools and volunteers will become project partners that provide standards-based authentic research, education and stewardship opportunities to their students and their communities.

2. Data collected will add to ongoing research that evaluates the health of coastal salt marshes in the Northeast in terms of ecosystem function and will inform the prioritization of restoration projects based on ecosystem function and services.

3. Lessons learned from the program will serve as a model for using digital and virtual technologies for environmental literacy programs and building community connections.

Objectives: 

To identify digital technologies that enhance environmental literacy and  learning in middle school students around salt marsh health; to develop partnerships between schools and volunteers for collecting and sharing salt marsh data towards increasing environmental literacy concepts for teachers and volunteers.

Methodology: 

We will develop and assess Next Generation Science Standards-based technology-enhanced field and classroom activities. Instruments and analysis techniques used for assessment will be based on best practices in the field.

Rationale: 

This project addresses environmental literacy through an examination of virtual place-based methods to bring coastal salt marshes into more classrooms.