Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Science Education (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Kedmon Hungwe

Committee Member 1

Alexandria Guth

Committee Member 2

Amy Lark


Many times when field experiences occur with elementary students there is no assessment of the programming, and therefore no data showing how the participants’ learning was impacted. This study focuses on the effectiveness of a forest field trip offered to 3rd-5th grade students at a public school in Gogebic County, Michigan.

The study was guided by the following research questions:

  • What strategies have been used to conduct forest-based environmental education programs in the Western Upper Peninsula?
  • What has been the impact of the strategies on students’ environmental knowledge?
  • In what ways if any, can the conduct of the learning experiences be improved?

The students participated in a 1.5-hour field trip that included experiential, environmental science activities at a nearby forest. To assess the participants’ environmental knowledge, pre- and posttests were administered. Prior to participating in the program the students completed a one-page, three-part pretest based on the content that would be covered during the field trip. The activities were developed from three different lessons found in the Project Learning Tree curriculum guide (American Forest Foundation, 2007). Each activity was about 20-30 minutes long.

The students completed the posttest immediately following the field trip experience. The results were analyzed by class and grade to determine if there were changes after participation in the programming. Teachers were also given an evaluation to determine what strategies are most effective in making outdoor field trips possible for students.

The results did show statistically significant gains in the test scores, with some of the questions showing higher gains than others. The 5th grade students had the highest gains between the pre- and posttest scores. The teacher evaluations showed that teachers would be more likely to participate in an outdoor field trip if transportation reimbursements were available and if a natural resource professional was present to lead the programming. These findings may be of interest to educators and other personnel interested in using forest field trips as a way of supporting student learning.