Okay, so this morning, I woke early, about 5:30 a.m.. It is early for me. I have friends that awaken an hour before that time. But, for some reason the old Thomas Dolby song, “She Blinded me with Science” was stuck in my head.
Anyone that knows me well, knows that I love science! I love life science especially – it fits so well with my background as a nurse, gardener, and environmental educator. I do not know why that this specific song was stuck in my head at that early hour this morning. Perhaps, it was because I had to explain to someone recently that while I liked information, I knew there were people who did not. For me, unless I am learning something new, I tend to tune out. For others, if there is information they do not care about, they tune out. Sometimes, that is any information at all.
Science is fact filled. But, there is room for interpretation and room for theories. Science requires precision of methods, background research, the creation of hypotheses, and the collection of even more information. Then, there is the requisite analysis of the information you have gathered.
This collection of evaluative data and subsequent analysis is an especially important part that has not been done well in the field of environmental education. Too often, non-formal educators are stretched too thin – expected to provide, if not also develop, programming for our audiences. But, unless we collect and analyze some data regarding our programming, how do we know it was effective? How do we tweak our objectives, lessons, and evaluations unless we reflect upon them?
I really did not know how much I took this whole process – a scientific process – to heart, until recently. In the past, as I taught, I was always looking for weaknesses – what I could do better, differently, how I could better engage the students – you know. But, I will admit I did little formal evaluations. The simple fact is that I did not need to. I ran a student group that was free of assessments (formative or summative) and the grades associated with those evaluations. I do think it might be part of why the students really seemed to learn. They learned because they wanted to learn, not because I was grading them (I did not have any power or responsibility to do so.)
You might ask, if you did not use assessments, how do you know they learned? I know because I asked them each month what they remembered about the previous month’s lesson. We had some great interactive discussions. I did some “formative” assessments by questioning them, both verbally, and occasionally, by using some written questions, what they knew about a topic before we studied it. I know because I finally studied this group, formally, as a whole, finally, last year. No one told me to do it, I just did it. I wanted to.
My research proposal passed the University’s Internal Review Board and I created a survey that went out to my first five years of garden club students, 2004-2009. They are all young adults now, so I only had to ask their permission, not their parent’s permission to enable them to participant in my survey. The answers I got were fascinating, and validating. I need to return that study to finish my data analysis so I can share what I learned about engaging young students in environmental education.
As I start my new job, I am collecting a different type of data, but information no less important than evaluative information. It is information on what is needed…a needs assessment. This information, gathered again through a brief digital survey, will help me to determine what fellow educators – formal educators would like from our community service organization. In essence, I am asking how I can make their job of educating students on our local environment (or place) easier.
I am looking forward to sending this survey out in the near future. Science is amazing – there are so many facets to it – no matter what field or branch one is in, there is always something to learn, reflect upon, improve, or help others understand.
My head has been “spinning” lately with lots of ideas, all based in science. I am not sure I am blinded by it, but more likely inspired by it, and what can be learned!
Unfortunately, I am still not sure why “Blinded Me with Science” was stuck in my head this morning before dawn! I am sure I will never know. But, today, and hopefully for a long time to come, I am Inspired by the Science!