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1 September 2013 Environmental Stewardship Outcomes from Year-Long Invasive Species Restoration Projects in Middle School
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To investigate the impacts of long-term targeted invasive plant stewardship projects on students' subsequent stewardship attitudes, an experiment using pre and post-tests to understand program effects and using post-test only comparisons to understand school effects was conducted. The resulting scores from two science classes that participated in year-long invasive plant and restoration activities were compared with those from three comparable classes at a linked school that did not participate in any of these activities. Students in the experimental classes showed overall significantly higher scores compared with the control classes. These attitude scores were then divided into two indexes: sense of personal effectiveness and attitudes of caring for particular places. Students in the experimental group showed increases in both, as compared with the controls. Parent and student focus groups were conducted at the end of the academic year. The resulting comments provide evidence for actual behavior change outside of the school environment. Analysis showed that any student, especially those in the control classes in the traditional middle school, indicating they had prior exposure to nature stewardship projects showed significantly higher scores than students who did not. The results underscore the value of having students involved in real-world stewardship projects, especially those of a long-term nature.

Management Implications: English ivy (Hedera helix) is a pervasive invasive plant growing in parks and greenspaces in many urban areas. This plant is frequently the target of public and school invasive plant removal events. If the management goal is removal, chemical treatment may be more effective. However, if the management goal is greater public awareness about invasive plants, a targeted community-based education and stewardship approach may be effective. By involving an interested teacher, students can be involved in long-term experiences that both inform and involve them directly in work that has credible, beneficial real-world outcomes. Students in the experimental group of this study were highly motivated and continued to both inform and inspire their families to help remove invasive species outside of school in their own communities. In addition, they informed their families and friends about the work they had done removing invasive species in local parks and took them there to show off their results. Agencies can work with schools using long-term stewardship projects in effective strategies that increase awareness and motivation in students and lead to community-wide effects.

Weed Science Society of America
Marion Dresner and Kelly A. Fischer "Environmental Stewardship Outcomes from Year-Long Invasive Species Restoration Projects in Middle School," Invasive Plant Science and Management 6(3), 444-448, (1 September 2013).
Received: 2 October 2012; Accepted: 1 March 2013; Published: 1 September 2013

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