a) Project Summary: i) Organization and Partnerships: The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) is a non profit organization dedicated to improving the scientific basis for environmental decision making. NCSE adopted EnvironMentors (EM) in 2006 to strengthen the program’s college and career access components, and to elevate it as a national, universitybased chapter program. Founded in 1992, in Washington, DC, EnvironMentors goal is to prepare underrepresented high school students for college degree programs and careers in environmental fields. Among NCSE’s signature programs is its University Affiliates Program, a professional network of over 170 colleges and universities, all of which house environmental degree programs, and which provide an ideal infrastructure for expanding EnvironMentors as a national, university based college access program. EnvironMentors matches high school students with faculty, graduate and undergraduate students and science and environmental professionals in oneonone mentoring relationships. Students and mentors work together to develop environmental science research projects over the full academic year. The program concludes with the annual EnvironMentors Fair at which students present their projects to judges, and winners are awarded college scholarships. EnvironMentors also integrates a wide variety of college exposure and preparation activities to assist students in matriculating to 2 and 4year colleges and universities. EnvironMentors Director, Susan Carlson will oversee the EnvironMentors Educator Training Project. National Program Manager, Tahlia Bear will manage daytoday activities. We are currently partnered with Alabama State University, Arkansas State University, Colleges of the Fenway, Colorado State University, North Carolina State University, University of California – Davis, University of NebraskaLincoln each of which houses an EnvironMentors chapter and works with affiliated local high school(s). Additionally, the DC EnvironMentors chapter continues to serve over 100 DC high school students. We anticipate launching 3 – 4 new chapters at NCSE’s affiliate colleges and universities in 2010. ii) Summary: The EnvironMentors Educator Training Project addresses EPA’s Educational Priority (5) EE Teaching Skills and the needs of high school teachers to support underrepresented high school students in developing a stronger understanding of environmental science and local/global environmental issues, as well as to build research and critical thinking skills necessary for students to pursue college degrees and careers in environmental fields. A secondary, but equally important priority addressed by this project is Career Development and the needs of underrepresented high school students to develop the interest and preparedness to pursue environmental fields at the college level. The targeted goals of the EnvironMentors Teacher Training Project are: a) develop a suite of EnvironMentors instructional models and best practices to support delivery of EnvironMentors through classintegration and clubbased models, b) increase the number of high school students served at each chapter, c) strengthen EnvironMentors programming provided to students participants at each chapter. iii) Delivery methods: Delivery methods for the EnvironMentors Educator Training Project include: a) Two in person workshops, b) Six webinar presentations and conference calls, c) a hard copy and electronic version of the revised version of the EnvironMentors Educator Manual, d) EM Educators portal on the EnvironMentors Online Community, e) and presentations at two educator professional conferences.
iV) Audience: The primary audience for the EM Educator Training Project are 2022 high school teachers of underrepresented high school students. These will be the Lead Teachers who teach and coordinate EnvironMentors at each chapters’ partner high school(s). Our Lead Teachers work with low income African 1
American, Hispanic, American Indian and first generation Asian students in the 9th – 12th grades. We also anticipate reaching at least 100 formal and informal educators from across the country through presentations of the EM Educator Training Project at National Science Teacher Association and North American Association for Environmental Education national conferences.
V) Costs: Expenses included in the EPA’s portion of the budget include: salaries, travel, equipment and supplies, as well as teacher stipends, and in person workshops and meetings, included in “Contracts” and “Other” budget categories.
b.) Project Description: 1. Why: There is an urgent need to more strongly engage teachers of high school students from under represented backgrounds in environmental science, environmental studies, and related science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. This is evidenced by the ongoing disproportionately low percentage of underrepresented groups in environmental and related STEM college majors and in the workforce ( Clark, 1999; National Center for Education Statistics, 2003; NSF, 1994; Thomas, 2001). Additionally, the achievement gap in environmental science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, between the U.S. and other competing nations [Bhattachariee, 2004; National Science Foundation (NSF), 2006] continues to grow, as does the achievement gap in STEM fields within the U.S. between majority and nonmajority students. (NSF, 2006, 2007). (US Competes) At the same time, the U.S. is undergoing tremendous growth in the “green economy”. The renewable energy industry grew 3 xs as fast as the U.S. economy as a whole in the past 10 years. It is expected that 1 out of every 4 jobs will be in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industry by 2030 (Bezdek, 2008). Further, environmental federal agencies are anticipated to experience significant increases in workforce needs due to retirement of current employees. This attrition will require 1000s of new employees trained in environmental and related fields.
EnvironMentors views high school teachers as key intermediaries to help reverse trends of low participation among underrepresented students in environmental fields. High school students have multiple encounters with their teachers on a weekly, often times, daily basis. For many underrepresented and atrisk youth, teachers and other adult mentors play important roles in imparting values, knowledge, and skills particularly for students growing up in unstable neighborhood and family situations. To this end, teachers can hold the keys to unlock the curiosity, excitement, and desire among underrepresented students to pursue environmental fields throughout collage and into career. Many high school science teachers however lack opportunities to teach environmental science. As it is not a required course in most school districts, environmental science is often a low priority for superintendents and principals seeking to increase test scores in mandated science courses. As a result, many underrepresented youth who, increasingly are growing up in urban environments, gain little to no exposure to the environment, either recreationally, or academically. In addition, today’s testoriented educational culture drives teachers to increasingly “teach to the test”, resulting in straight delivery of content with little opportunity to stimulate student’s personal interests, and talents through independent inquiry learning. Development of inquiry learning 2
and critical thinking skills are among the most important competencies we can impart to our students who face the ramifications of global climate change and other increasingly severe and complex environmental challenges of today and tomorrow. Application of the scientific method to an independent research project has proven an effective teaching method to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. These opportunities are dramatically reduced in many underresourced high schools with the result being that the millions of students attending these schools are not being provided key opportunities to learn to think for themselves, interdentally, critically, and analytically. EnvironMentors is a well established program which provides high school teachers a stepbystep framework to support students in application of the scientific method to an environmental topic or issue of their own personal concern. The program has an 18 year track record of success in igniting participating student’s interest in environmental science by engaging them in a structured independent environmental research project supported by a mentor. To date, EnvironMentors has largely been managed by a Chapter Director and Student Coordinator at each of our current participating chapters. Needed is a delivery model directed to high school teachers to more strongly integrate the EnvironMentors program into existing environmental, science and related curriculum. A teacherdriven delivery model for EnvironMentors can result in significantly strengthening the program through the academic integration it will entail, as well as many hundred of additional students gaining the opportunity to participate in the EnvironMentors experience nationwide. (i) What EnvironMentors Educator Training Project seeks to strengthen the capacity of teachers to deliver the EnvironMentors program to high school students from underrepresented backgrounds. Through this project, we will develop an EnvironMentors Educator Training model and suite of best practices with the anticipated outcome that many more high school teachers will incorporate EnvironMentors into their curriculum and programs. The paramount outcomes of this project are that hundreds more teachers have the means to easily incorporate EnvironMentors into existing curricula, and that thousands more underrepresented high school students gain opportunities to engage in EnvironMentors and develop stronger interest and preparedness for environmental college degree programs and careers. As part of the dissemination of this Project through presentations at NSTA and NAAEE, it is also anticipated that informal educators may introduce the EnvironMentors model into their informal environmental education and science programs. The goals of the EnvironMentors Educator Training Project are to: a) develop a suite of EnvironMentors instructional models and best practices to support delivery of EnvironMentors through classintegration and clubbased models ; b) increase the number of high school students served at each chapter; and c) strengthen EnvironMentors programming provided to students participants at each chapter (2) Environmental issue: The environmental issue addressed by this Project is environmental stewardship. The environmental problem targeted is the current lack of opportunities of teachers of underrepresented high school students to include environmental science and studies courses in their curriculum, as well as the lack of opportunities to include independent inquiry learning in existing classes. The result of these limited teaching opportunities is that very few underrepresented high school students are exposed to environmental science and/or studies programs nor do benefit from opportunities to learn much needed independent research, and critical thinking skills. Through stronger engagement of teachers in the delivery of EnvironMentors, we will expose many more underrepresented students to environmental fields, local and global environmental issues, and inquiry learning with the ultimate result being that many more students will be increasingly predisposed to pursue environmental fields in college and career. (3) Increase environmental stewardship: EnvironMentors employs a studentcentered approach to development of an independent research project driven by the student’s personal interests and concerns about 3
the environment. With guidance from their teachers, and support from their mentors, students develop their own project topics based on their own environmental interests and concerns. As a result, our students develop a strong sense of authorship and ownership of the projects from the very beginning of the program. This leads to a greater interest in environmental issues overall and builds a foundation for increased individual responsibility and stewardship behaviors among our students such as recycling and reducing energy consumption at home, school, and in their communities.
(4) Education priority: The primary priority addressed by the EnvironMentors Educator Training Project is EE Teaching Skills. The secondary Priority addressed by this Project is Career Development.
(iv) Who: The primary target audience of the EnvironMentors Educator Training Project are teachers of under represented high school students. The lead EnvironMentors teachers at each of EnvironMentors chapter partner high school play a critical role in delivery of the program at their high schools. The lead EM teachers are instrumental in identifying students who demonstrate an interest in science and the environment and whom they believe will benefit from EnvironMentors. EnvironMentors targets average achieving students who are often overlooked by honors and special needs programs. Lead Teachers work to incorporate the EnvironMentors program through either the classintegration model or the clubbased model at their high schools. (See section iii, How) Lead teachers also work closely with the Chapter Coordinator at their EM c host university to plan events, field trips, use of university research facilities and other activities that will occur over the program season. The EM Educator Training Project will directly address 2 teachers from each of 10 chapter partnering high schools. Each teacher will work with an average of 15 – 20 high school students depending on whether he/she chooses to implement EnvironMentors through the classintegration or clubbased models (section iii, How) for an approximate total of 240 students of African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American decent, and at risk Caucasian students reached through the Project. Each high school student will teach his/her project to an elementary school class of an average of 25 students for a total of 11,250 elementary school students of similar backgrounds reached by EM during 201011. At the conclusion of the academic year, the 2 lead EM teachers involved in the Project at each of 10 partnering high schools will present EnvironMentors, and the classintegration and clubbased delivery methods, to at least 5 – 6 additional teachers at their respective high schools, for a total of 50 – 60 additional high school teachers reached by the Project. Staff will present EnvironMentors and the findings from the EM Educator Professional Development Project at workshops of approximately 50 participants each at the National Science Teachers Association national conference and the North American Association for Environmental Education conference which will expose approximately 100 additional formal and informal science and environmental educators to EM and the EM Educator Training Project. Each of the 20 EM ETP teacher participants will receive a modest stipend of $1,000, and an expense paid trip to participate in the final debriefing and identification of best practices meeting including in the Project which will be held in conjunction with the national 2011 EnvironMentors Fair, scheduled midMay 2011. Stipend awards will be based on successful completion of terms of agreement developed for this Project by national EM staff, and which will be clearly outlined in a Letter of Agreement signed by participating teachers and national staff at the beginning of the Project. (iii) How: The overall goal of the EnvironMentors Educator Training Project is to strengthen the capacity of high school teachers and other educators to deliver the EnvironMentors model to underrepresented students. EnvironMentors has a 18year trackrecord of success in increasing interest among students’ from diverse 4
backgrounds in the environment and preparing participants for college with a particular emphasis on environmentally related college degree programs. (www.ncseonline.org/environmentors). The program matches high school student participants with university faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and science professionals in onetoone mentoring relationships. Once matched, students and mentors carry out experimental science research projects on environmental topics of student’s selection. Students are matched with mentors in the fall and work on their research projects throughout the academic year. Each spring, students deliver presentations of their projects to elementary school classes, thus extending their learning to hundreds of younger students throughout their communities. The program concludes in May with the EnvironMentors Fair at which students present their projects to judges and top students are awarded college scholarships. The EnvironMentors model includes the following distinct components: onetoone studentmentor relationships, early season field trips, studentdriven project topic selection, literature review research papers, interviews with experts, design and implementation of experimental research, data collection and analysis, elementary school teaching presentations, presentation of project results to adult judges, exposure to college campuses and university life, and coordination of college prep activities to support college admissions for student participants. In addition to the DC EM chapter, EnvironMentors chapters are fully operational at 7 university locations for a total of 8 EM chapters across the country. We will establish 2 new chapters in the 201011 academic year to expand our embrace of Hispanic students, and extend EM to support a Native American student group for a total of 10 chapters. While the core suite of program components outlined above is consistently incorporated at each chapter, some chapters coordinate EM through a classintegration model, and others conduct the program as a clubbased model. The class integration model entails incorporation of each of the key steps of EM’s approach to application of the scientific method to student’s selected environmental topic into the curriculum and calendar of a selected class. Through this model, EnvironMentors becomes a credit earning experience for students and builds academic accountability into delivery of the program. Through the clubbased model, students voluntarily participate in the EM club and follow the same stepbystep approach to development of their EM projects. Some teachers have even arranged Independent Study class credit for students participating in their EM Club. Both the classintegration and clubbased models provide highly valuable experiences for students, and both present certain benefits and implementation challenges for teachers. The goals of the EM Educator Training Project are to: a) develop a suite of EnvironMentors instructional models and best practices to support delivery of EnvironMentors through classintegration and clubbased models, b) increase the number of high school students served at each chapter, c) strengthen EnvironMentors programming provided to students participants at each chapter. Preparation for the EM ETP will begin in July 2010 by establishing a teacher led Educator Training Project Advisory made up of 56 lead EM teachers who have participated in EM for at least 1 year and who are interested in providing overall guidance to staff on needs and challenges teachers face in effectively implementing EM with their students and to assist in design of individual Webinars and other components of the EM ETP. Recruitment of the full cohort of teacher participants will also occur in July and August. The lead teachers at each of our existing 8 EM chapters will help identify and engage one partner teacher at their or another high school in their school system they believe will gain from and add value to the Project. New lead EM teachers at our 2 new 201011 chapters will be identified and engaged by the universitybased coordinators of each new chapter. Teachers will participate in an EM Educators Training Project Orientation Webinar which will provide a comprehensive overview of EnvironMentors, its major program components, the step by step process with which students develop their EM research projects, and the class integration and club based delivery models 5
outlined below. The Orientation webinar will also review EnvironMentors guiding precepts including a grounding in placebased education, inquirybased, hands on discovery learning, outward bound expeditionary learning methods, the special significance of field trips in EM1, and the importance of using local community examples when discussing environmental issues. Staff will also review the research and evaluation components of the EM ETP as outlined in section c) Evaluation below. Information transmitted through Orientation webinar will ensure that delivery of EnvironMentors at each chapter’s participating high school is consistent, experiential, and handson. Having participated in the Orientation webinar, all teachers who believe they can make the commitment to participate in the EM Educator Training Project will be sent a letter of agreement outlining the terms and conditions the Project in which the teachers are expected to participate. This will participation in at least six webinars designed to support teachers in each distinct stage of the EnvironMentors program model. Webinar topics include but may not be limited to: Project Planning, Project Topic Selection, Background Research, EnvironMentors Community, Experimental Design, Presentation Skills, as well as an overview of environmentally related college degree programs and careers. Participating teachers will also meet with the Director and Coordinator of host university chapter to plan events, field trips, workshop, and other activities and learn about research facilities and college access programs available to the students at the university. These preseason meetings will help build a strong working relationship between Teachers and Chapter staff which will be ongoing throughout the program season. EM ETP participating Teachers will be equipped with an updated version of the EnvironMentors Teacher Coordinator Manual, an instructional guide to incorporating EnvironMentors as a class or club based program into high school science program and curriculum. The EM TeacherCoordinator manual includes alignment of the EnvironMentors model with No Child Left Behind Standards for scientific inquiry, assessment rubrics for each major component of the program, monthbymonth planning guidelines, the EM studentmentor curriculum annotated for teachers, and direction to other environmental and science education resources targeted for high school teachers and students. The EnvironMentors model documented in the EM Teacher – Coordinators Manual is closely aligned with the standards included in EPA’s Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence” handbook including Fairness, Depth, Emphasis on Skills Building, Action Orientation, Instructional Soundness, and Usability. Participating teachers and their students will complete early season evaluation activities described in section c) Evaluation during September. Teachers will also participate in the EM Program Planning webinar present class integration and club based delivery methods, a step by step approach for planning the EM calendar using each approach, working with their chapter’s Director and Coordinator to recruit, screen, and train mentors, and match students with appropriate mentors. Collaborative planning will help ensure success delivery of the EM program, and completion of EM research projects by students. Teachers will be instrumental in identifying students they believe will most benefit from EnvironMentors for either a particular class section, or to participate in an EnvironMentors club based at their high school. The Teachers will be the voice of EnvironMentors for students. They will discuss the benefits of EM with students, the entire program from start to finish, the level of commitment students need to give to the program including completion of each stage of the program, 1ce per week mentor meetings, and participation in workshops, school meetings, and field trips. (Field trips are a critical component of program delivery. In the early season they provide a chance for students to build camaraderie and support within the group. Externally they provide an opportunity for students to experience and connect with nature and the local issues facing their community. In addition they also spark project topic ideas).
In October, teachers will participate in a webinar presentation of the web based “EnvironMentors Community” which will demonstrate utilizing the site for managing student assignments, tracking student progress, and social networking among one another. Teachers will post an article about field trips they have completed or have arranged for the year and the environmental issue(s) these trips addresses. Staff will also use the online EnvironMentors Community to post important messages to teachers, blogs, and articles to teachers. Finally, this webinar will also present NCSE’s Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE), a powerful environmental science research engine which will be used by students for their research. The Webinar and conference call scheduled for November and December will be on Project Topic Development and Development of the Background Research Paper, and a midyear sharing of ideas and best practices respectively. The November webinar will cover each step of the scientific method as applied to students’ project topics and ways to begin brainstorming with students on their project topic ideas. Review of the Background Research paper will include ways in which EM teachers can work with the Language Arts teachers to deliver the foundation of developing an annotated bibliography and literature review research paper. Additionally, Teachers will be given information on ways to assist students in finding an expert in their field of interest to interview for the Expert Interview Assignment. In December, EM staff will facilitate an Ideas Exchange Conference Call to provide teachers an opportunity to reflect and present unique approaches to delivery they have developed as well as challenges they may have encountered during the fall semester. Sharing ideas and experiences among teachers will help provide each participant new ideas to incorporate into their programs as well as help to develop a sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness among the group. The January Webinar will review principles of Experimental Design to help them most effectively guide their students in designing and carrying out student’s project research. This webinar will also cover working with chapter coordinators to access research facilities and equipment that may be available at their chapter’s host university. In February, EnvironMentors staff will cover of the essentials of data capture, and analysis. This information will be posted as an article on the EnvironMentors online community. The article will cover ways teachers can discuss field research skills with students including sampling techniques, the need for accuracy and consistency in conducting trials, control and experimental variables and analyzing data for at least mean, median, and mode scores. The article will also encourage partnering with a math Teacher to deliver the mathematical portion of data collection and graphing. The final webinar will occur in March entitled, Planning and Presentation Skills. In this webinar, teachers will learn about the value of organizing elementary school presentations for students that take place during the month of April. A review of steps to coordinate presentations along with tips on working with students to create fun, interactive lessons about their research projects. Teachers will also be provided with public speaking guidelines that can be reviewed with students prior to presentations. This is an ideal time for teachers to share ideas and experience as educators with their students to help students refine their presentation skills. EnvironMentors national staff will participate in the National Science Teacher Association National Conference in San Francisco, CA scheduled March 2011 to present a workshop on the EnvironMentors model and findings to date from the EM ETP to formal and informal science educators. This will be an important element in reaching a broader and expansive number of science educators who may be interesting in using EnvironMentors in their science curriculum. In May, participating teachers will escort students who were top winners at their chapter’s EM Fair to the National EM Fair in Washington, DC. Teachers will participate in the final debriefing and development of best practices EM ETP workshop which will be held in conjunction with the Fair. During this inperson workshop, teachers will reflect on their experience in the Project, share ideas on overall best practices, learn from others, and consider ideas for program delivery they will include in their own training workshops with teachers at their high schools. Teachers will return to their schools and present a twohour EnvironMentors information session with at least six other formal or nonformal educators in their school or district. The instructional modules prepared by EM ETP teachers will be collected and compiled by EM staff for circulation to participating and 7
new teachers, and incorporated the final report to EPA. c) Evaluation This project will include both quantitative and qualitative evaluation approaches. Quantitative evaluation is designed to measure the extent to which teacher and student participants progress towards targeted outcomes. Qualitative evaluation will investigate what components of the EM Educator Training Project teachers believe were most beneficial and which components of the EM program model students believed were most valuable. The guiding question for the evaluation of teacher participant outcomes is “to what extent did the EETP result in increased competencies among teachers to effectively implement EnvironMentors with underrepresented high school students?” Evaluation of teacher outcomes will be derived through a Preand PostProgram Survey directed to teachers who implement EM through the classintegration model, and teachers who coordinate the program through the clubbased model. Administration/analysis of the Pre and PostProgram surveys with teachers who coordinate EM through both models will help identify the strengths and challenges associated with teacher’s abilities to implement each approach with their students. A parallel Pre and PostProgram survey will be conducted with students. The guiding question for evaluation of student outcomes is “to what extent does EnvironMentors result in increased interest in the environmental and/or pursuit of environmentallyrelated high school courses, college degree programs, and careers?” The student PrePost Program Survey will also be conducted with students participating in the classintegration model and the clubbased model, as well as students in a “matched comparison group”. Students in matched comparison groups will be drawn from the same high school and will be the same age, grade level, ethnicity, gender, and similar socioeconomic background as participating students. Administration/analysis of the PrePost Program survey with a matched comparison group students will enable staff to assess the extent to which student outcomes can be attributable EnvironMentors overall. Staff will compare base line data from matched comparison groups with data derived from Pre and Post program surveys administered with students participating in the EM class integration, and clubbased models respectively to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each model in attaining student outcomes including increased interest in the environment, and predisposition to pursuing environmental fields in high school, college, and career. The guiding question for qualitative research conducted with teachers is “what combination of training components is most effective in building the capacity of teachers to implement EnvironMentors at their respective high schools?” Openended interview questions will be posed to teachers at the beginning of the program to explore perceptions of EM and expectations of the EM ETP. Similar questions will be posed at the conclusion of the program to assess the extent to which teachers felt their expectations for EM ETP were met, and what components of the training they believe were most effective. Responses from the teacher interviews will be transcribed, codified, and clustered and trends regarding teachers’ beliefs of the relative value of various aspects of the EM EETP will be identified.
The guiding question for qualitative research of student outcomes is “what combination of EnvironMentors program components is most effective in engaging high school students from various underrepresented backgrounds in environmental fields.” For this question, we anticipate that students from differing demographic backgrounds may respond differently to various EM program components, (eg. hands on experimental research, one to one mentoring, etc.). Staff will conduct focus groups at the beginning and conclusion of the program with African American students in the DC EM chapter, Hispanic students in the University of CaliforniaDavis chapter, Asian students in the University of NebraskaLincoln chapter, and Native American at 8
our new EM chapter on the Yakima reservation. Responses will also be clustered to identify trends in student beliefs of the relative value of major components of the EM program model.