A Case Study on Attitudinal Changes of Teachers at an Environmental Charter School
Jacobs, Emily K.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Since 1991 when the first charter school legislation was passed, charters have been opening across the country. In Wisconsin the first charter school began in 1993; at present, 13 8 charters exist. During the last ten years, significant research has been done involving students and accountability at charter school facilities. Further studies have been conducted looking at the environment and its role in education. In addition, recent research indicates that students learn more effectively when learning takes place within an environmentally based context. They perform better in reading, writing, math, science and social studies (Lieberman and Hoody, 1998). Research also demonstrates that students and their learning changes through the charter school process, yet little is known about the changes that take place within the staff at these facilities, thereby creating the need for this study. This research focused on the teachers and administration at the Jackson Environmental Discovery Center (JEDC), an environmentally based charter school in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Qualitative research methodology known as participant observation was used and data was collected from a variety of sources including meetings, discussions, surveys, interviews and evaluations throughout the year and half study period. This data was coded into five major study themes including the development of the teacher as a professional, the development of the curriculum, teacher empowerment and ownership, the importance of support and involvement from external sources and perceptual changes-barriers and concerns. This study has implications not only in charter school development but also to the field of environmental education, as it demonstrated what happened to school personnel (primarily teachers) as they underwent the change from a traditional public school to an environmentally focused charter facility.