Training to Teach Leave No Trace: Efficacy of Master Educator Courses


  • Maria Bromley
  • Jeff Marion U.S. Geological Survey, USDI
  • Troy Hall


Leave No Trace, adult environmental education, education evaluation, outdoor ethics


Visitor-associated resource impacts on public lands generally increase as recreation on those lands increases. As the most prominent low-impact educational group in the U.S., the nonprofit Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (LNTCOE) promotes low-impact outdoor practices and ethics to assist managers. Although few studies have examined the efficacy of the Leave No Trace (LNT) program, Daniels and Marion (2005) investigated the efficacy of the official two-day LNT Trainer course. Modeled after that study, this research evaluated the LNT Master Educator (ME) course, a five-day “trainthe- trainer” course. Focusing on courses instructed April through November, 2011, we assessed changes in participants’ LNT knowledge, ethics, confidence, judgment, behavior, and teaching. Course instructors administered paper surveys prior to and directly after the course. Three months later, participants were contacted and asked to complete a final survey. Overall, this study found long-term improvement in mean knowledge, ethics, confidence, judgment, and behavior scores. Although participants arrived at the course well versed in LNT knowledge, they departed with an even better understanding of low-impact practices and ethics. Mean knowledge and ethics scores increased significantly following the course and remained significantly improved over pre-course assessments several months later, indicating long-term knowledge retention. While only 47% of respondents went on an outing between their course and the follow-up survey, their reported low-impact behaviors revealed significant improvements from pre-course to follow-up assessments. Following the course, Master Educators were actively engaged in a variety of outreach efforts, including teaching two-day Trainer courses, creating LNT media and various types of informal instruction. For example, 85% of the follow-up respondents (n=87) reported that they had taught LNT to others between their course and the follow-up survey. Half had shared LNT as part of their job or internship duties for a mean of 41 hours and reaching approximately 1450 people; 69% did so through informal conversations and contacts, for a mean of 45 hours and reaching 2490 people. Our findings were more similar than different when compared to the previous LNT Trainer course study. Research implications for future evaluations are described.





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