Research – Investigación

From 2010-2012, the Children Are The Hope project model was the subject of a University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point graduate level research endeavor.  Over the course of two years, Cuban and American students, teachers, administrators, and educators took part in an extensive evaluation of program inputs and outcomes, provided an important, methodical, and strategic look into the impact of the CATH programming on the lives of students in both Wisconsin and Cuba.

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Impact of an International Environmental Education and Art Exchange Program on the

Environmental Sensitivity, Knowledge, and Self-Reported Environmentally Responsible Behavior

of Wisconsin and Cuban Elementary Students

ABSTRACT

Children Are The Hope (CATH) is an environmental education and art-based program based in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.  This study aimed to measure the impact of the CATH experience on short term levels of environmental sensitivity, knowledge, and self-reported environmentally responsible behavior in 4th through 6th grade students in select Wisconsin schools and similar-aged students in the Gran Humedal del Norte region of central Cuba.  Children Are The Hope engages students in Wisconsin and Cuba in an academic year-long environmental education experience that includes an international art exchange, using Sandhill Cranes as the common denominator.  Wisconsin’s Greater Sandhill Cranes are thriving, while the Cuban Sandhill Crane is endangered.  CATH aims to weave these stories together and use the cranes as an instrument through which learning opportunities addressing larger natural systems, environmental issues, and individual and collective potential for positive environmental impact can be addressed.

A quasi-experimensurveytal research design involved both treatment and control student groups in both countries, who completed pre- and post-assessment questionnaires at identical times during the course of one academic year.  Small group student interviews grounded in purposeful sampling were administered at the completion of the project year.  This mixed approach provides both qualitative and quantitative data to drive future program direction and potential expansion and adaptations of the project model.

Student surveys were designed to complement the foundational components of Environmental Education, including awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills and participation.  Pre-assessment surveys were administered by partner teachers in Cuba and Wisconsin prior to any CATH influence or instruction.  Post-assessment surveys were administered similarly after the conclusion of the international art exchange and classroom instruction.  Quantitative analysis includes results of pre- and post-assessment multiple choice,P1170882 rating, and Likert-scale type questions.  Qualitative analysis includes the examination of small-group student interviews, which were transcribed verbatim and subsequently coded for hierarchical thematic categories and patterns.

Qualitative analysis of the small-group interviews in both Wisconsin and Cuba suggest strong correlations between project participation and increased self-perceived and self-reported environmental knowledge, environmental sensitivity and responsible environmental behavior as well as participant support and appreciation for art as a mode of international communication and tool for sharing environmental information and feelings.  Qualitative analysis of the paper and pencil surveys supports these ideas.   Overall results are positive indicators that the Children Are The Hope program scope and sequence positively influence short term student understanding and appreciation of the natural world around participating students in both Wisconsin and Cuba as well as positive increases in behavior as it relates to acting responsibly within environmental conditions.

For more information on this research endeavor or to receive a copy (or portion of) the thesis publication, please contact the CATH Director at koriemklink@gmail.com.  Thanks – we’d love to share the results with you!  We also invite graduate students of environmental education or related fields to continue the journey!  If you are interested in furthering this research project, contact us.  We’d love to have the journey continue!