Environmental Literacy of San Marcos River Conservationists
Korth, Lisa Elena
This phenomenological qualitative study brings insight to the meaning of environmental literacy (EL) by characterizing San Marcos River conservationists and understanding their perceptions of EL. Thirteen participants representing a mix of formal and informal educators, field conservationists, volunteers, organizers and members of environmental groups, and environmental activists reveal the essence of river conservation through in-depth descriptions of their experiences. Their stories tell how their EL was shaped by transformational and influential experiences related to outdoor recreation, family, exploration, independence, art and literature, connectivity, spirituality, and travel. Participants' perceptions of environmental literacy are deconstructed through the Environmental Literacy Conceptual Framework, unearthing the essence of river conservation evident in stewardship, relationships, language, community, appreciation, and the clear sense that the San Marcos River experience is the reason that the participants care about the river and want to protect it. The river conservationists in this study express how attitudes and emotions affect environmental literacy through their perceptions of environmental awareness, environmental action, and environmental activism. Attitudes and emotion appear to play a more significant and interactive role in shaping EL than the literature implies. The participants consistently discuss experiences that struck them on an emotional level and shifted their outlook about the environment. This leads to the final important finding - the potential effectiveness of using transformational learning theory to improve environmental education programs. The participants make it clear that positive experiences in nature lead to genuine lifelong EL, which is consistent with the practices of transformational learning. As a result, programs that seek to educate citizens and policymakers should focus on providing experiences that include spending time in nature and developing a unique relationship with the environment, which data suggest are critical components of transformational and influential experiences.
environmental literacy, conservationists, San Marcos River
Korth, L.E. (2008). Environmental literacy of San Marcos River conservationists (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.