Semester of Graduation

Fall 2022

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Increasing environmental literacy through environmental education is an integral approach to fighting many of the environmental challenges facing Louisiana. The State Department of Education in Louisiana has released two initiatives to increase environmental literacy in the state while incorporating nonformal environmental education into formalized k-12 education. The first initiative is a set of Key Principles and Concepts (KPCs) in environmental education, which is aimed at providing standards to nonformal environmental educators in Louisiana. The second initiative, the Louisiana Environmental Education Advancement Plan (LEEAP), accompanies the KPCs and provides an opportunity for nonformal environmental education organizations to achieve endorsement through partnership with the Louisiana State Department of Education based on the degree to which the KPCs are met by the organization.

This multiple case study investigation centered on the perceptions of nonformal environmental educators across Louisiana when presented with the two Department of Education initiatives. Nine educators were represented in this study, each of whom participated in one of three focus groups with their peers. Participants were asked about perceived needs, opportunities, and challenges arising from the introduction of the KPCs and LEEAP. Focus group transcripts were analyzed using rigorous qualitative data analysis, resulting in six emergent themes: 1) strong sense of servitude, 2) changes in recruitment and retention, 3) desire for connectivity, 4) unknowing optimism, 5) overwhelmed and outvoiced, and 6) comfort with pillars of formal education. These findings indicate that environmental education is systemically undervalued in Louisiana. Because of this, organizations are experiencing challenges in recruitment and retention, difficulties with reaching enough of their communities, and meeting resistance when trying to find space for their programming in k-12 curriculum schedules. Given these challenges, I recommend the incentivization of partnerships between formal education institutions and their employees and nonformal environmental education organizations. Furthermore, I encourage the reformation of a professional association for environmental educators to facilitate collaboration. Finally, I recommend the involvement of nonformal environmental educators in the development of additional resources and initiatives, and the continued monitoring of adoption and implementation of current initiatives to evaluate success and address needs as they arise.

Date

11-2-2022

Committee Chair

Stair, Kristin

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