Research Summary

The effects of an environmental education program on students, parents, and community

Study Finds the “Magic” of a Hawaii Program Boosted Kids’ Confidence, Interest in School, Scores on Critical Thinking and Cognitive Achievement Tests

Journal of Environmental Education

It’s not every day that young children testify before state legislatures, but that’s what 5th and 6th graders in Hawaii did through an educational program that engaged them as problem solvers for local environmental challenges. As one community member said, “I think it prepares our children to be good adults. It makes me feel good to see these kids because I know Hawaii is going to be in good hands in the future.”

Students in the program significantly outscored students who weren’t in the program on critical thinking skills assessments, cognitive achievement tests, and the belief that they can make a difference in their communities. Students also outscored their peers in assessments of cognitive skills such as issue identification, issue analysis, and action planning. Parents of participating students reported that they believed the program’s significance extended well beyond the environment and helped the students develop leadership skills, a sense of purpose, and an ability to resolve conflicts and teach their community.

Teachers reported that the program improved their students’ maturity levels, self esteem, poise, and autonomy. One teacher reported, “I think I’m a better teacher because of it. It has kind of completed the ‘whole package.’ The framework unified all my best approaches and it made my instruction much easier.” Another teacher said, “It forces me to facilitate rather than dictate…watching 25 young minds start to make their own discoveries…you must sit back and watch the magic work.”