Research Summary

Integrating instructional technologies in a local watershed investigation with urban elementary learners

Fourth Grade Inner-City Kids Wowed Teachers by Taking the Initiative to Dream Up a Community Pond Clean Up

Journal of Environmental Education
2008

Environmental education doesn’t have to take place in a serene, park setting. The environment is all around us. As study author Dr. Alec Bodzin explained, “EE can help connect urban students to nature when nature isn’t abundant—to help them use what they have and extrapolate it to a larger context.”

The National Science Foundation funded an after school science club for 4th graders in a high poverty, inner-city school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The club used hands-on outdoor learning and field investigation over 24 weeks to open up the children’s eyes to the environment they live in and how ecosystems work. Students collected water samples to test the water quality and all the adults were surprised when the children insisted on holding a community pond clean up. Bodzin believes environmental education, “creates good citizens; its goals are at the core of what drives formal education (creating a more informed citizenry capable of facing society’s challenges).”

“It’s important for students to see they’re caring for their own neighborhoods. They’ll think twice next time about throwing trash in the storm drain. It’s also important that they learn where their water comes from; that water doesn’t magically get treated on its way to them; how it must be filtered that it’s habitat for native animals; and that the health of the creeks affects the health of the people living near them.”

A researcher working at an urban middle school with NSF-funded EE commented, “We have a number of studies published showing that kids learn better this way compared to business as usual.”