Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



First Advisor

Dr. Elinor Sheirer

Second Advisor

Dr. Joan Bray

Third Advisor

Dr. Marianne Barnes


Environmental education is becoming an increasingly important component of secondary science education as our society attempts to minimize the exploitations and damaging actions of humankind on the earth. Environmental education has evolved primarily from environmental consciousness in the 1960s to an environmentally active focus in the 1990s. This project examined the effectiveness of an environmental education curriculum that focuses on improving environmental behaviors and attitudes as well as knowledge.

The review of the literature for this project indicates that responsible environmental behaviors are linked to four types of environmental education categories. These categories are hierarchical and include: 1) ecological concepts, 2) conceptual awareness, 3) issue investigation and evaluation, and 4) environmental action skills (Disinger, 1993). A review of environmental education curricula provides a wide variety of activities in all four of the above listed categories.

Information documenting the relationship between the acquisition of environmental knowledge and behav~ural change as a result of participating in community based environmental activities is less evident. Therefore, this project attempted to investigate the relationships between participation in community-based environmental activities and tenth-grade students' knowledge and attitudes toward environmental issues.

During the spring semester of 1995 forty-five tenth-grade biology students at a private urban high school were pretested to assess their initial environmental concept knowledge and their initial environmental attitudes. These students were subsequently exposed to a three-week introduction to environmental concepts and to techniques for investigating environmental issues. Students were simultaneously given a variety of issues to investigate. An additional four hours of time were required of each student to participate in a community service related to an environmental concern. They submitted a written report of their work which included background research, method of participation, results and conclusions on the effect of their project on the environment. Following these experiences, a posttest was administered to assess any change in students' environmental knowledge or attitudes.

Effective environmental education encourages the active participation of students in environmental improvement. The results of this investigation could assist educators in the selection of appropriate environmental activities for use with high school students.