American Institutes for Research is a non-profit education research firm. They conducted the 2005 study “Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California.” The study focused on three target sites to “to examine the effects of outdoor education experiences on students’ behavior and learning.” Participants were 255 sixth grade students who attended one of three outdoor education programs in California. The study focused on the following research questions:
- How does participation in outdoor education programs impact students’ personal and social skills (e.g., self-esteem, cooperation, teamwork)?
- How does participation in outdoor education programs foster students’ stewardship of the environment and their appreciation of the importance of the wise use of natural resources?
- How does the science instruction received through the outdoor education program curriculum increase students’ knowledge and understanding of science concepts?
The evaluation used a delayed treatment design, which allowed for conducting a controlled experimental design evaluation in which all students were able to receive the outdoor education treatment. Half the students participated in the program after having earlier served as a control group. The study relied on surveys (student, parent and teacher), and site visits for data collection. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Evaluation results were used by the Sierra Club to support the importance of outdoor education for California public school students.