Summer 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Vivian Johnson

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Andrew Brown

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

William Koenig


This capstone project used a qualitative research design to explore the research question, how do students who are participating in a course on ecology and resource conservation, describe their understanding of ecology and conservation? The capstone researcher designed a student centered curriculum that used project based learning and outdoor experiences in an elective science course. A major goal of the course was to engage high school students in environmental education and shift students’ attitude to be more positive toward the environment. To measure students’ attitudes, the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) (Anderson, 2012) survey was completed at the start and end of the course. The research design also included the use of student journals and a teacher journal. Student journals were used because Al-Rawahi and Al-Balushi, (2015) describe them as a place where students can freely respond to and reflect on what is happening in the course and provide a timely, authentic account of what they are learning. The findings provide evidence that for the 15 high school seniors enrolled in this elective course, using a student centered curriculum was an effective strategy for engaging them in environmental education. However, the change in students’ attitude toward the environment from the start of the course to the completion of the course was a small but positive shift. The capstone research was conducted in Spring 2017 in a large suburban high school in the upper midwest with a total population of about 1600 students in grades 10-12. According to the website for the school district the school has a diverse student population with about 35% qualifying for free or reduced lunch prices and in 2015, the student population consisted of 63% Caucasian, 13% Asian, 13% Hispanic, 9% African American and 2% American Indian.

Research Methodology

Action Research, Curriculum Development, Survey (attitude scale, opinion, questionnaire)


Curriculum, Environmental Studies, Science, Journals

Included in

Education Commons