Research Summary

Measuring and developing ecological literacy to conserve the critically endangered Mariana Crow

New school-based environmental education curriculum increased environmental knowledge and attitudes

Applied Environmental Education & Communication
2021

The Mariana crow (Corvus kubaryi), or Åga, is a critically endangered species endemic to the Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth in Micronesia. Among the Chamorro people of the island of Rota, past surveys showed that 52% approved of chasing or even shooting Åga on their property, and many could not reliably distinguish Åga from other birds. Past research indicated that a place-based ecological literacy curriculum with an emphasis on storytelling would be the best fit to protect the species on Rota. The researchers in this study sought to develop an environmental education curriculum that would increase knowledge and reduce harassment of Åga. The researchers developed a school-based curriculum of five 90-minute lessons about Åga and visually similar species, which included storytelling, citizen science, arts, and games.

From October to December 2017, the researchers taught 36 fifth and sixth grade students on Rota while taking ethnographic field notes. Half of the students were the control group (who did not receive the lessons), while the other half were assigned to the treatment group and were taught the Åga-focused lessons that the researchers developed. Both groups completed written pre- and post-surveys, which used a 5-point scale to evaluate students’ knowledge and attitudes towards Åga. The lessons took place in a school setting, with no field trips to observe Åga in the wild.

Survey results showed that students in both groups increased their knowledge and positive attitudes towards Åga during the study. Compared to the control group, the treatment group showed a higher increase in these attributes and showed considerable improvement in identifying Åga and similar species. Students reported that they enjoyed the activities outlined in the curriculum. The researchers concluded the curriculum was successful.

There were some limitations to this study. This study took place in a small school on a remote island nation and may have been affected by classroom and teacher dynamics because some teachers opposed the program, while administrators supported it. In addition, there were other Åga outreach projects that ran concurrently on Rota with this curriculum, which may have contributed to the improvement in the post-survey for all students.

This study tested a place-based curriculum that educated students about a unique species in their area in a school setting. The learning outcomes suggest that a focus on local communities and ecosystems can help students retain positive environmental attitudes and knowledge about a species, even without visits to the field.

The Bottom Line

The Mariana crow (Corvus kubaryi), or Åga, is a critically endangered species endemic to the Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth in Micronesia. The researchers in this study sought to develop an environmental education curriculum that would increase knowledge and reduce harassment of Åga. The researchers developed a curriculum of five 90-minute lessons about Åga and visually similar species, which included storytelling, citizen science, arts, and games. The study took place in 2017 and the researchers taught 36 fifth and sixth grade students on Rota. Half of the students (the treatment group) were taught the Åga-focused lessons developed by the researchers. Survey results showed both groups of students increased their knowledge and positive attitudes towards Åga, with the treatment group showing a greater increase overall. The learning outcomes suggest that incorporating storytelling, citizen science, art, and games can help students retain positive environmental attitudes and knowledge.