Evaluating the Great Lakes Education Program: GLEP plus students equals science!

The Great Lakes Education Program concluded its 26th year of advancing Great Lakes literacy this fall. What impact does GLEP education have on students?

2016 GLEP student evaluation results. Image: Michigan Sea Grant Extension
2016 GLEP student evaluation results. Image: Michigan Sea Grant Extension

This fall the Great Lakes Education Program (GLEP) concluded its 26th year of classroom and vessel-based education in southeast Michigan, having worked with nearly 110,000 students, teachers and adult chaperones since 1991. Why should teachers new to the program participate? Perhaps because teachers developed the program for their students, or because of the numerous awards it has won. But it really comes down to the students, and the impact the program has on them.

We know from research conducted at Michigan State University that from its early days that the Great Lakes Education Program has been effective significantly increasing students’ Great Lakes knowledge, as well as developing positive attitudes toward the Great Lakes behavioral intentions. We also know that GLEP education has ripple effects that extend beyond the immediate participants. Parents of participants, for example, scored significantly higher on the behavioral intentions scale than parents of non-participants.

Previous Michigan State University Extension articles have reviewed the 2016 program year from the perspective of teachers and of adult chaperones. Since 2014, we have been administering student evaluations using post-participation questions provided by the MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development office. A National 4-H Program of Distinction, and a past winner of the MSU Extension John Hannah Award for Program Excellence, GLEP education has engaged teachers, adult chaperones, and of course students in vessel-based learning so that they can learn about and became better stewards of the Great Lakes.

The results of our 2016 student evaluation, which reflects the input received from 795 students, representing both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie program locations. Approximately 79 percent of the students were 9 or 10 years of age, which reflects our emphasis on fourth and fifth grades, and there were slightly more female students – 53 percent - which has been the norm in the past. GLEP education is intentionally inclusive of underserved populations, and once again our student survey reflected this – 42 percent of this year’s GLEP students were from underserved populations.

What did the students have to say?  Answers to specific evaluation questions were very encouraging: Ninety-five percent of the students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel more knowledgeable about Great Lake science” as a result of their GLEP education experience. Eighty-four percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I am good at science” while 92 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I like science.”

These results are not surprising due to the fact that teachers are consistent in their use of the GLEP classroom curriculum, and more than 80 percent seek additional Great Lakes information for use in their classroom throughout the year, whether through additional lessons such as Teaching Great Lakes Science from Michigan Sea Grant, or the Fresh & Salt curriculum available through the Center for Great Lakes Literacy.

If you know of a teachers who is interested in developing a love of science, particularly as it relates to the Great Lakes, encourage them to learn more about how they and their classes can participate in the Great Lakes Education Program. Visit the GLEP website soon at www.glep.us.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Read more in this series:

Part 1: Great Lakes Education Program gets high marks from teachers

Part 2: Students aren’t the only ones who learn while on a schoolship

Part 3: (this article) Evaluating the Great Lakes Education Program – GLEP + students = science!

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