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Effectiveness of Education for Understanding Urban Ecosystem Complexity and Resilience: Involving Teachers and Youth in Urban Ecosystems Research

Project Leaders: Marion Dresner, Kari O'Connell, Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, Mary Santelmann

This project will engage in two specific activities: the creation and support of networks of teachers, youth and organizations who conduct urban ecological research; and the development of and collection of data about measures of how teacher and student involvement in urban ecological projects contributes to urban resilience.


  1. Convene an annual ULTRA Education Symposium where participating educators and their students can discuss their results with scientists and policy makers.
  2. Conduct research to measure teachers' and students' knowledge and understanding about urban ecosystems.
  3. Conduct preliminary research on the attitudinal and behavioral impacts to teachers and students due to their participation in urban and regional ecological and stewardship projects.
  4. Conduct a comparative assessment of the extent of youth engagement programs in the Portland and Vancouver regions.


  1. Use of an array of qualitative and quantitative assessment instruments and approaches to measure how participation in authentic urban research experiences impacts:
    1. teachers and students' attitudes about human impacts on urban ecosystems,
    2. their knowledge of the structure and function of urban ecological systems within which they have conducted research and their understanding for the ways in which social and ecological systems may interact,
    3. attitudes and behaviors directly related to stewardship and civic engagement,
    4. the extent of youth engagement programs in urban ecological work in the Portland/Vancouver regions and how the extent of these programs might relate to governance.
  2. Using some existing evaluation tools, continue to measure how ecological understanding is acquired through participation in urban systems research.
    1. How do teachers change their classroom/field practices after experiencing an urban ecology research program for themselves?
    2. How do models show changes in ways of thinking about ecological relationship;s and reveal "ways of ecological thinking"?
    3. Collect essays written about these models that may reveal changes in understanding of ecosystem functioning due to human impact.
    4. Collect attitudinal surveys and knowledge tests that could reveal changes in understanding about human impacts to urban ecosystems.
  3. Investigate meaningful civic engagement variables and research tools within our own particular programs.
  4. Investigate the extent of youth engagement programs in urban, rural, natural area environmental research, monitoring, restoration work in Portland vs. Vancouver areas.
    1. Spring ULTRA Educational Symposium to create networks, focus groups, and pilot test most worthwhile set of measurements.