Evaluation: Amplifying the Community Legacy of Frog-Catching in Springfield, MA

Context: Children in cities don’t have equal access to nature. Environmental education (EE) helps address this problem by teaching science outdoors. Since the 1970s, students in the Springfield Public Schools (Springfield, MA) have participated in the ECOS environmental education program in Forest Park. If you listen to anyone who has done ECOS (or whose children went to ECOS) talk about it, they will probably tell you about catching frogs and tadpoles at the pond. What do students do with these rich memories after ECOS ends? Are they catching frogs again with their families? Are they telling stories with their friends?

The newly renovated ECOS building in Forest Park

Action: The ECOS staff and I developed a logic model to illustrate how program activities and other factors may lead to the desired outcome of repeated engagement with ECOS activities. We designed a survey for elementary school students about their memories of the Animal Habitats program and their engagement in ECOS-relevant activities since. I also conducted an analysis using GIS software to understand how students’ responses differed depending on where they live. In all, 364 students from 10 elementary schools completed the survey.

Teachers in Springfield often follow up on ECOS with additional classroom activities, like writing haikus, for example. A great way to reinforce learning and build positive memories!

Result: ECOS provides unique opportunities for students to experience nature alongside peers. The long history of ECOS means that students can share this exact experience with parents or older siblings, which was associated with greater repetition of ECOS activities. Recognizing the value of these inter-generational nature experiences and conversations, we created bilingual resource for parents to follow-up on ECOS activities in local green spaces or to talk about their activities at home.
Check out the links below to learn more:

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