MEASURING ENVIRONMENTAL LITERACY IN FARGO, NORTH ENVIRONMENTAL LITERACY IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, ... Environmental Literacy in Fargo, ... teaching of environmental education is a necessity

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  • MEASURING ENVIRONMENTAL LITERACY

    IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, AND MOORHEAD, MINNESOTA

    A Paper Submitted to the Graduate Faculty

    of the North Dakota State University

    of Agriculture and Applied Science

    By

    Ruth M. Lewis

    In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

    MASTER OF SCIENCE

    Major Program: Natural Resources Management

    Major Department: Communication

    March 2008

    Fargo, North Dakota

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    Spacer for graduate school signature form remove before printing

  • iii

    ABSTRACT

    Lewis, Ruth M., M.S., Program of Natural Resource Management, College of Graduate and Interdisciplinary Studies, North Dakota State University, March 2008. Measuring Environmental Literacy in Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota. Major Professor: Dr. Mark Meister. Environmental literacy has been a topic of discussion among educators and

    natural resource managers since the late 1960s. The topic has encompassed many

    perspectives about how to define the term, how to teach it, and how to measure it. This

    research surveyed randomly selected residents from Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead,

    Minnesota. The survey measured the participants knowledge of general environmental

    issues from a local, regional, and national perspective. The study found that survey

    participants were somewhat aware of environmental issues, as well as displayed attitudes

    and behaviors similar to other measures of environmental literacy. This study provides a

    summary of findings regarding how the respondents learn about the environment and how

    they would prefer to learn. The information gathered through this survey will be useful for

    public agencies and organizations in developing and maintaining public outreach

    programs.

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    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    I would like to thank John Reber, NDSU Graduate Student who assisted me with

    the statistic calculations and his time in helping me develop the questions for this survey. I

    would also like to thank Linda Charlton of the Group Decision Center for her time and

    effort in developing and managing the on line survey.

    I would also like to extend a special thanks to the members of my graduate

    committee: Dr. Charles Okigbo, Dr. Carolyn Grygiel, Dr. Gary Goreham, and my advisor,

    Dr. Mark Meister. They have each in their own way helped me through this endeavor to

    pursue my degree and I appreciate their enthusiasm for this particular research.

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    DEDICATION

    To my husband and son

    Who have stood by me in this long pursuit and who also believe

    The development of an environmentally conscious society is necessary

    for the good of the Earth and humankind.

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    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................... iii

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................................................................... iv

    DEDICATION .................................................................................................................. v

    LIST OF TABLES ........................................................................................................... ix

    LIST OF FIGURES ......................................................................................................... xi

    CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE.......................................................... 1

    Assumptions ................................................................................................................... 3

    Purpose ........................................................................................................................... 4

    The Evolution of Environmental Literacy ......................................................................... 4

    Environmental Literacy Theory ........................................................................................... 5

    Public School Education ..................................................................................................... 8

    Barriers to Public Education ............................................................................................... 9

    The Need for Environmental Education ........................................................................... 10

    Environmental Literacy versus Conservation Literacy ..................................................... 11

    Measuring Environmental and Conservation Literacy ..................................................... 12

    CHAPTER 2. METHODOLOGY .................................................................................... 16

    Data Collection.................................................................................................................. 16

    Identifying the Survey Participant Pool ............................................................................ 17

    Survey Instrument ............................................................................................................. 19

    Development of Survey Questions ................................................................................... 19

    Data Analysis .................................................................................................................... 20

    CHAPTER 3. RESULTS ................................................................................................ 21

    Demographic Questions ................................................................................................... 21

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    Environmental Education .................................................................................................. 21

    Level of Contact with Agency or Organization Personnel and how Environmental Information is Received .................................................................................................... 23 Knowledge of Agency/Organization Presence ................................................................. 25

    Basic Knowledge of Water Quality Issues ....................................................................... 27

    Questions Regarding the Red River................................................................................. 29

    Land Conservation Questions .......................................................................................... 31

    General Knowledge of the Fargo Area ........................................................................... 313

    Recycling Questions ......................................................................................................... 34

    Saving Resources ............................................................................................................. 35

    Outdoor Activities .............................................................................................................. 37

    CHAPTER 4. DISCUSSION .......................................................................................... 38

    Refined Responses for Attitudes Toward Environmental Education ............................... 38

    Refined Responses to Receiving Information and Preferences ...................................... 40

    Refined Results Regarding Factual Knowledge .............................................................. 46

    Refined Results for Recycling and Saving Resources .................................................. 477

    Discussion of Results Related to Environmental Literacy ............................................... 49

    CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ........................................ 54

    Limitations ......................................................................................................................... 54

    Conclusions ...................................................................................................................... 54

    Utility and Prospects for Future Research ....................................................................... 55

    REFERENCES .............................................................................................................. 57

    APPENDIX 1. SURVEY ANNOUNCEMENT ................................................................. 61

    APPENDIX 2. SURVEY INSTRUMENT ........................................................................ 62

    APPENDIX 3. WRITTEN RESPONSES TO SURVEY QUESTIONS ............................. 70

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    APPENDIX 4. INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD ........................................................ 79

    APPENDIX 5. DATA TABLES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AND RECYCLING ......................................................................................................... 80

  • ix

    LIST OF TABLES

    Table

    1. Responses to demographic-related questions ................................................... 22

    Page

    2. Respondents perspective about environmental education and their

    own level of participation.................................................................................... 23 3. Level of contact with agency or organization staff .............................................. 24 4. Measurements of current and preferred ways of receiving

    environmental information .................................................................................. 25 5. Respondents' awareness of what agencies exist in Fargo-Moorhead ................ 26 6. Local recognition of organizations and agencies in Fargo-Moorhead ................ 27 7. Level of knowledge of local water quality issues ................................................ 28 8. Level of knowledge of local and national water quality issues ........................... 29 9. Level of knowledge of the Red River .................................................................. 30

    10. Measurement of understanding about land conservation techniques ................. 31 11. Level of knowledge of general environmental information in Fargo-

    Moorhead .......................................................................................................... 33 12. Level of knowledge of general environmental information in Fargo-

    Moorhead .......................................................................................................... 34 13. Measurement of recycling attitudes and efforts .................................................. 35 14. Measurement of action and attitude of personal conservation of

    resources ........................................................................................................... 36 15. Level of participation in selected outdoor activities ............................................. 37 16. Measurement of responses relating to having received environmental

    education and support of environmental education in K-12 schools ................... 39 17. Refined measurement relating to receiving information based on

    gender and age ................................................................................................. 41 18. Refined measurement relating to receiving information based on

    gender and age as a separate analysis ............................................................. 42 19. Refined measurement relating to preference for receiving information

    based on gender and age .................................................................................. 43

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    20. Refined measurement relating to preference for receiving information based on gender and age as a separate analysis .............................................. 44

    21. Gender and age scores for Questions 57-69 (ELScore 1) and

    Questions 73-94 (ELScore 2) ............................................................................ 82 22. Combined information for recycling responses based on gender and

    age .................................................................................................................... 83

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    LIST OF FIGURES

    Figure

    1. What educational components may affect a persons life (Roth, 1992 p. 38) ...... 45

    Page

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    CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE

    The residents of Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, reside in the

    bottom of a 10,000-year-old glacial lake bed. The historic and current wealth of this area

    comes from the productive glacial sediment that has been farmed since the mid to late

    1800s. The area of the Red River Basin was once dominated by pothole wetlands; mixed,

    tall, and short grass prairies, and mixed forests. To a farmer, these lands were only suited

    to plowing and draining (Krenz & Leitch, 1998). To the ecologist, these were lands that

    provided diverse flora and fauna. The prairie pothole region has historically been a major

    breeding area for waterfowl and shorebirds along the central flyway. The tall grass prairie

    supported abundant populations of unique wildlife species. The riparian areas along the

    myriad perennial streams supported abundant fisheries, including the primitive Lake

    Sturgeon, that were almost exterminated by loss of habitat and over fishing.

    Upon moving to Fargo in 2002, I became aware of a lack of environmental

    awareness from the citizens of the community, public schools, and higher education

    institutions. I found that there were limited natural resource agency offices located in the

    area as well as limited conservation or environmental organizations. The local newspaper

    and television stations rarely reported on any environmental issues, especially local

    issues.

    As you read this comprehensive paper, I am sure that you can tell that I am

    concerned about the environment. My upbringing, education, experiences, and personal

    philosophy have developed a deep concern for educating myself, my family, and others

    about the environment. To the extent possible, my family and I practice environmental

    awareness and action in our daily lives. Much of my reason for developing this

    comprehensive paper and the survey is because of my concern for the lack of

    environmental consciousness in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

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    Part of my perception I am sure stemmed from my experience of working and living

    in Colorado and Alaska. By education I am a Wildlife Biologist, by experience I have held

    many positions working for the United States Forest Service (USFS) while in college and

    after graduation in temporary capacities; as a biologist and wildlife officer for the Colorado

    Division of Wildlife, and as a habitat biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and

    Game. I had always lived in communities that had a greater sense of the environment, and

    I detected a void in Fargo.

    Based on my observations, I considered that perhaps a community could not

    develop an environmental awareness if they were not exposed to conservation or

    environmental issues from locally active agencies or organizations. I also considered that

    if the local mass media does not provide information to the public, then the public stays

    unaware of issues. It is important for the public to have the opportunity to go to an agency

    office to talk about...