Wisconsin K-12 Teachers' Perceived Environmental Education Resource Needs
Dixon, Cheryl R.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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The goal of environmental education (EE) in our school systems is to "help students become environmentally knowledgeable, skilled, dedicated citizens who are willing to work ... towards achieving and maintaining a dynamic equilibrium between the quality of life and the quality of the environment." (Engleson, 1985) Environmental education has been valued by the public officials who approved legislation both nationally and within the State of Wisconsin to encourage and require components of environmental education in our educational structure. Teachers and school administration generally have a positive attitude towards EE but there is an inconsistency between the intention and actual practices in classrooms. Several hurdles must be overcome to implement EE into traditional classrooms. This obstacles fall into 4 main categories: conceptual, educational, attitudinal, and logistical. The purpose of this research project is to examine logistical barriers to determine the type of resources and topics, and issues for these resources, K-12 teachers need to have accessible in order to integrate environmental concepts into their classroom. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was used to determine the scope of the research question and examine teachers' preferences for addressing this issue. In April and May of 1995, six focus group discussions were facilitated with teachers from a variety of schools, grade levels, and subject areas. Natural resource topics and environmental education resources mentioned during the focus group discussions were used to develop a written survey. The project's graduate and advisory committees and a pilot group of teachers reviewed the Environmental Education Resource Survey. The final survey was sent in May 1996 to 1000 Wisconsin teachers. Two hundred and four viable surveys were returned. The frequency of responses was calculated and recorded for each survey item. Three of the survey sections ( section 2 - natural resource topics and environmental issues; section 4 - resources; and section 5 - dissemination of resources) contained a two-part question regime. Part two of these sections asked teachers to rank their perception of priority of need for each survey item. These priorities were ranked, calculated together, and recorded to determine a priority from all responding teachers. Results indicate that, in general, teachers need resources on local environmental issues (such as, Wisconsin endangered species, Wisconsin wildlife, local watersheds, and Great Lakes) and global issues (such as, industries' relationship with the environment, global climate change, urban environments, land use issues, and biodiversity). The most requested types of resources K-12 teachers would like for their classrooms are specimens for classroom use, local field trip opportunities, videos, and activity guides. Wisconsin teachers feel the best way to access these resources would be maintaining a central place to access list of field trip opportunities, resource materials, and available guest speakers. These results varied by grade level and the specific needs of teachers in each grade level should be examined before resource providers attempt to address the perceived resource needs of K-12 teachers in Wisconsin.