The Effectiveness of Education and Outreach Tools to Increase Interest in the Biodiversity of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Emily M. Love, Gettysburg College
Emma R. Okell, Gettysburg College

Environmental Studies Senior Thesis


Educational tools and their effectiveness are important for increasing both knowledge about and interest in biodiversity, including local biodiversity. In our project we designed and implemented various educational tools to educate the public on biodiversity topics and to raise awareness about biodiversity issues in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania area. Our objectives were to test the effectiveness of media and different types of educational tools. We created a series of species identification guides for local species present in the Gettysburg National Military Park (GNMP) in iNaturalist. These identification guides will be used in GNMP’s annual BioBlitz, and were incorporated into a lesson plan on invasive species and a website focused on GNMP biodiversity. We presented the invasive species lesson plan to a group of elementary students at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve alongside other lessons focused on biodiversity. In a survey distributed by the Nature Preserve staff, students evaluating the lesson indicated an increase in interest and factual knowledge about local biodiversity and conservation. The lesson plan evaluations showed that students enjoyed our lesson, however the most well received, and likely most memorable lessons were active and interactive, which suggests that information should be presented to these young students in more active formats. To assess the impact of our website that communicated local biodiversity information and conservation concerns and management measures, we conducted before and after viewing the website surveys and asked the participants about their interest, knowledge, and concern about local biodiversity as well as factual information incorporated into our website. Overall, our findings suggest that interest and knowledge can both be increased through education, but they are best shaped through an interactive experience.