Below is a text-only version of the Executive Summary (i.e. no tables, figures, graphics). A web compatible version (i.e. low resolution graphics) of the complete report can be downloaded from the bottom of this page. Contact LIONS directly for a high resolution version of the report.
An Evaluation of
Local Investigations of Natural Science (LIONS)
Executive Summary 2008-2009
Missouri Botanical Gardens
Rachel Becker-Klein, Dave Chase, Michael Duffin,
and Program Evaluation and Educational Research (PEER) Associates
The primary finding from this evaluation was that despite variations in Local Investigations of Natural Science (LIONS) specific projects, strategies of implementation, and challenges to implementation, both LIONS educators and students believed that their involvement in the program had a positive influence on their teaching and learning. However, the content and quality of these improvements in teaching practice and student learning varied by LIONS program recruitment status.
In Spring 2006, the Missouri Botanical Garden received a National Science Foundation grant to fund the LIONS program. LIONS trained educators from the St. Louis region, through professional development about place-based education, to deliver after school and summer programming to students grades 5 through 8. Since its inception, the LIONS program has included evaluation of program implementation and outcomes. There were dramatic changes in the scope of the program, which expanded beyond the originally targeted University City school district by adding additional schools recruited by LIONS staff. This expansion occurred after the district did not recruit enough educators for the program. The three programs that were recruited by LIONS, in contrast to those recruited by the University City school district, were found to be
exemplary in their level of involvement and quality of programs offered to participating students.
Additional evaluation findings included:
- LIONS educators implemented programs with varying levels of success and challenges;
- Most LIONS programs were hands-on, but did not incorporate service-learning;
- LIONS involvement impacted educator practice after school and in the classroom;
- Involvement in LIONS positively influenced student learning; and
- LIONS educators were well-supported by LIONS staff.
The evaluation collected data from the following sources:
- 19 Educators and 109 Student surveys
- Four groups with 24 students at three different schools
- Interviews with 11 LIONS educators and 1 LIONS staff
Conclusions and Recommendations
The results from the 2008-2009 evaluation data confirmed and substantiated findings from previous years. In summary, LIONS educators showed continued growth in their educator practice in LIONS and back in their school classrooms, especially around using hands-on learning. This progress occurred on different trajectories, depending on whether they had been recruited by the district or by LIONS, with LIONS-recruited programs showing higher levels of success.
This evaluation has indicated some practical issues for the design and implementation of out-of-school time programs, such as the importance of accounting for: recruitment issues; educator readiness to teach similar programs; and educator background in pedagogical and STEM-related work.
From a broader perspective, at least two topics emerging from this project may well be worth further future investigation, either within the context of LIONS or in other projects like it.~A more specific exploration is indicated to examine the relationship between educator capacities, student outcomes, and continuous educator learning and growth as a result of those capacities and interactions. It is hypothesized that certain identifiable educator capacities may help educators create more effective learning environments, providing better opportunities for student learning. However, the extent to which these educator capacities can be shaped is yet to be determined. More targeted investigations of the multiple roles of out-of-school programming and its potential to positively impact educator capacities and student learning and
development in specific and identifiable ways may offer noteworthy insights to this question.