Research Summary

Environmental service learning: outcomes of innovative pedagogy in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Students Say They Learned Better Than in a Traditional Classroom Setting and Even Convinced Family Members to Adopt Environmentally-Friendly Behavior

Environmental Education Research

Many middle schoolers in a two semester environmental learning course in Mexico said they learned better or enjoyed learning more compared to a traditional classroom setting. Students said their learning felt “useful,” “meaningful,” “engaging,” and “inspired them to pay better intention,” “set an example for others to follow,” “experience the synergistic effect of their efforts,” and “take personal action for the community and endangered species.”

By supplementing classroom learning with service learning, local ecosystem field work, and other interactive learning strategies, teachers observed increased engagement, knowledge retention and learning across subject areas. Teachers noted that the way the program was teaching was more instrumental than the content of the curricula in initiating environmental awareness and behaviors.

Students reported greater concern about environmental issues and intentions to make a positive impact on their community. Two years after the program, students still were practicing one or two pro-environmental behaviors.

Unexpectedly, the students also brought a lot of what they learned back to their families. Well over half reported that they initiated discussions with their family members and nearly all of those discussions astonishingly led to behavior change among family members.

Study author Andrew Jon Schneller believes that, “EE and its related approaches (like service learning) should be more widely embraced as a learning tool that provides learners with multiple outcomes related to academics, civic engagement, and real world problem solving.”