Efficacy of a post-secondary environmental science education program on the attitude toward science of a group of Mississippi National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program students

William Bradford Smith

Abstract

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (ChalleNGe) is a 17 month quasi-military training program authorized by Congress in the 1993 Defense Authorization Bill designed to improve life skills, education levels, and employment potential of 16-18 year old youth who drop out of high school. ChalleNGe is currently operational in 27 states/territories with the focus of this study on the Mississippi National Guard Program operated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. During the five month residential portion of the program students are guided through an eight step process designed to meet the goals of improving life skills, education levels, and employment potential while ultimately leading to completion of high school equivalency credentials followed by a 12 month mentoring phase to encourage and track progress toward goals. The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitude toward science of a group of students enrolled in the ChalleNGe Program at Camp Shelby (ChalleNGe). The GED test is administered approximately two months into the residential phase of the program. While the program boasts an overall GED pass rate of nearly 80%, approximately 30-35% of students successfully complete the initial offering of the GED. As high school graduates, these students are offered college courses through William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Twenty four students elected to take the Introduction to Environmental Science course and formed the experimental group while 24 other students who passed the GED comprised the control group. Each group was administered the Scientific Attitude Inventory II, a 40 statement instrument with Likert Scale responses, as a pretest. Paired samples t -tests indicated no significant difference in attitude toward science between the experimental and control groups on the pretest. Following the two week Introduction to Environmental Science course for the experimental group, both groups were post tested. As predicted, the attitude toward science of the experimental group was significantly higher than that of the control group. Further investigation into correlation between the length of time students were away from the traditional school prior to starting ChalleNGe, the number of science classes previously taken, and reading scores on the Test of Adult Basic Education revealed no significant relationship. Responses provided by students to each of these three factors was significantly different between the experimental and control groups. In summary, attitude toward science can be positively impacted by short term interventions such as the environmental science course described herein. While the positive impact on attitude toward science caused by this course was the desired outcome of this project, appropriate emphasis should be placed on prevention of dropouts and the accompanying social issues.