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A Walk in the Forest: Elementary Students’ Perceptions and Knowledge of Forestry Principles

John G. Peden, Alice Hall, Gail Westcot, Samuel Police

Abstract


A Walk in the Forest is an educational program sponsored by the Society of American Foresters, Project Learning Tree, and the American Tree Farm System. The purpose of this outreach effort is to educate participants about forest-related benefits, increase awareness of forest ecosystems, and promote understanding of the forestry profession. The Mary Kahrs Warnell Forest Education Center conducted Walks for over 3,000 sixth grade students, teachers, and parents between 2002 and 2008. This outreach effort was the result of a partnership between the Warnell Center, the Savannah SAF chapter, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and many others. This paper reports the results of a pilot study that assessed changes in perceptions and knowledge of forestry principles among 285 fourth grade students who participated in the 7th Annual Walk in the Warnell Forest. Positive outcomes of the Walk were evident despite changes in the duration, scope, and location of the event necessitated by inclement weather. Consistent with previous research, findings suggest that environmental knowledge was more amenable to change than environmental perceptions. Results of the pilot study provide insight on the planning and design of environmental educational programs that can be used to meet the needs of local school children. The Walk is an inherently experiential and multidisciplinary program that relies on local environments and local forestry professionals to address state-mandated academic content through the lens of forestry and related professions. The Walk addresses salient needs in environmental education by emphasizing community learning, as well as the interconnectedness of ecological and social dimensions of forestry. The authors recommend that future educational efforts devote increased attention to the roles of fire, timber harvesting, and hunting as forest management tools.


Keywords


Environmental education; environmental perceptions; environmental knowledge; fire; forestry; partnerships; wildlife

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2016-V34-I2-5987

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