Civic Responsibility Through Environmental Education: How Earth Force's Service Learning Can Involve People of Multiple Socio-Economic Statuses

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Donoghue, Elizabeth
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A goal of environmental education programs is to create environmental stewards who are active participants in solving environmental issues. Environmental education programs often focus on mainstream environmental agendas that tend to be exclusive and contain a view that nature is a separate place. EE programs often have issues with how people define and perceive nature, community, and environmental issues. Studies have shown cultural backgrounds, social factors, and education can influence these definitions and civic action (Quimby, Seyala, and Wolfson, 2007; Fisman, 2005). In this study, I surveyed students that participated in Earth Force's environmental program at schools located in Charleston County, South Carolina. The goal of the study was to measure the effectiveness of Earth Force's environmental and civic-based programming. I conducted a case study using a paper format questionnaire of students at four schools: two elementary, one secondary, and one high school. In this study, similar to previous work, students' perceived nature as a separate place often untouched by humans. However, the program was effective because the students felt place attachment or emotional connection to the environmental issues because the program focuses on community. EF's six-step model focusing on community environmental problems, rather than separate natural settings, proved effective in the engagement of students by their service learning projects. Social factors including socio-economics did not hinder the students learning objectives and civic participation. This study helps inform environmental educators about environmental education programming and why it is important to address the environmental concerns of the community in which the students live in order to create environmentally active citizens.
Environmental education -- Social aspects; Environmental education -- South Carolina -- Charleston County;