Just Your Friendly, Neighborhood Park Ranger: How Park Rangers can help facilitate environmental learning in the classroom, an experience with snakes

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Gardner, Leigh Alexandra
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Middle Tennessee State University
Environmental education and interpretation programs hosted by Park Rangers offer audiences an opportunity to learn about science and nature through direct and hands-on interactions. However, programs offered at parks may be underutilized by schools and teachers. In the state of Tennessee, Park Rangers function as their park’s interpretive specialist. Teachers and Park Rangers can work together to curate meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities for students to encourage long-term, positive change in attitude towards the environment and conservation. For this project students were offered a survey both before and after an interpretive program with a snake. These surveys measured student’s attitude toward snakes and snake conservation in Tennessee. Furthermore, students that participated in the program attend one of two charter middle schools, which differed in student demographic make-up and conservation programming that allowed for student interactions with snakes in the field and classroom. Data gathered indicated that a single interpretive program had no significant impact on student attitude towards snakes, but that students were more likely to learn about snakes in their personal time following the interpretive program. Additionally, venomous snakes were perceived differently by the students from the two schools, suggesting that more research is needed to determine why the students from these two schools have different attitude scores concerning venomous snakes.
Conservation, Education, Interpretive, Program, Ranger, Snakes, Biology, Environmental education