As many recognize the pressing need for improved climate change education in our schools, studies evaluating the impacts of such education on science achievement scores become crucial. Kate G. Burt and colleagues explored the impacts of one particular climate change curriculum on New York City fourth graders’ year-end science achievement scores in the 2014-15 school year cycle.
The New York Sun Works (NYSW) program builds classroom-based hydroponic lab systems and provides curricula addressing environmental issues in all grade K-12 schools in NYC. Based on schools’ preference, the NYSW program incorporates various hydroponic and aquaponic systems in converted classrooms or full-scale school-based greenhouses. The accompanying project-based curriculum meets New York State’s Science Scope and Sequence requirements and provides intensive training for teachers to implement twice weekly lessons for a total of 80 lessons throughout the school year.
2014-15 achievement scores on the New York State science assessment for fourth grade students (n=638) in six elementary schools implementing NYSW program were compared to achievement scores of students (n=993) at eight elementary schools set to receive NYSW the following year. Additionally, students (n=1490) in “peer” schools were identified using NYC Department of Education matching methods.
- The authors first utilized a multilevel regression model that revealed higher, marginally significant scores among NYSW schools (p=0.052).
- On average, NYSW recipients scored higher than both comparison groups with a mean scaled science score of 85.1.
- In comparison, schools set to receive NYSW had a mean scaled score of 75.91 and DOE peer schools had a mean score of 76.1. Welsch two-sample t-tests indicated that these differences were significant at p<0.001.
The authors note that the quasi-experimental design does not support causality of NYSW increasing science achievement scores. However, given political controversy surrounding inclusion of climate change curricula in K-12 schools, this study underlines a possible way to more broadly include climate science in schools: the allure of potentially elevated science test scores.
Source: Burt, K. G., Burgermaster, M., D’Alessandro, D., Paul, R., & Stopler, M. (2020). New York City fourth graders who receive a climate change curriculum with hydroponic gardening have higher science achievement scores. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 19(4), 402-414.