AIR Study Shows Benefit of Outdoor Environmental Programs for Sixth Grade Students

Washington, D.C. – The California Department of Education has released the results of an American Institutes for Research study showing improved science scores and other benefits among at-risk sixth grade students in Los Angeles, San Diego and Fresno who participated in week-long residential environmental education programs known as “outdoor science schools."

The study focused on the educational and social-emotional impact of the environmental education programs on 255 students from elementary schools primarily serving at-risk populations of Latino, English Learner students. The study compared students who participated in the program with schoolmates who did not attend. Initial and follow-up surveys were given to both groups of students, their parents and their teachers.

Highlights of the AIR study include:

Students who participated in the programs showed significantly higher gains in cooperation and conflict resolution skills, compared with students who did not participate.

Six to ten weeks following program participation, parents of children who attended outdoor science school observed children engaging in positive environmental behaviors (e.g., recycling) at home.

Teachers reported significantly larger gains in self-esteem, conflict resolution, relationships with peers, problem-solving skills, motivation to learn, and positive classroom behavior among children who attended the program, compared to children who did not.

Children who attended outdoor school programs significantly improved their science scores by 27 percent, as measured by a pre- and post-survey.

“The positive outcomes associated with students’ participation in the five-day outdoor science school are promising, especially given the relatively short timeframe of the program,” the researchers reported. Deborah (Montgomery) Parrish and Gabriele Phillips, who are based in AIR’s Palo Alto, Calif., office, were the lead authors of the study.


About AIR

The American Institutes for Research, founded in 1946, is a leader in the behavioral and social sciences. AIR is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization engaged in domestic and international research, development, evaluation, analysis, product development, training and technical assistance and assessment.

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