Anna Arsic will be sharing the results of her thesis research with the public during her free lecture titled “Exploring the Impacts of Student Participation in Canyon Country Outdoor Education,” on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Moab Information Center.
Arsic is a park ranger at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and works with Canyon Country Outdoor Education (CCOE), an educational project which connects the National Park Service with local school districts and nonprofit organizations in southeast Utah.
“The curriculum is meant to help the students build a holistic understanding of the natural world around them,” said Arsic.
In the program, students learn about our local desert habitats from a variety of perspectives and education angles, taking field trips to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument and other areas.
Six years ago, a group of students was surveyed about their outdoor experiences with the program. Arsic returned to those same students to see how they remembered the activities, and if the program made a difference in how the young people saw the wild places around them.
Some of Arsic’s interviewees have now graduated from Grand County High School and perhaps have more mature takes on their experiences. With years worth of participant feedback, Arsic now has deep insight and specific knowledge about this program’s successes.
As they reminisced with Arsic, her interviewees told her not only what they learned from their experiences, but how they felt about what they learned.
“The student’s fondest memories were hiking in new and exciting locations, making art, playing games and socializing outside of school,” reported Arsic.
Students mentioned a trip to the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park as a stand-out experience. Even years on, students who had missed the trip because of a snowstorm expressed deep sadness and regret.
“CCOE enriched students’ levels of environmental appreciation, understanding and behaviors,” Arsic said.
CCOE’s 16 field trip and lesson-plan curriculum materials are available for free from its website.
“I think this would be an excellent tool for visiting families, school groups and home-schooled students,” said Arsic. “The info provided by my study will directly impact and improve future CCOE field trips with the next generation of Moab elementary students.”
Because of her work on this project, Arsic earned her master’s degree in environmental studies with a focus on environmental education from Arizona’s Prescott College this past May.
As a 'thank-you' to her interview participants, Arsic decided to stage a re-do: she took all the students to the Fiery Furnace herself, making up for the field trip they missed so many years ago.
This event is part of a free lecture series sponsored by Canyonlands Natural History Association and the Moab Museum.