Research

The ANCA Blue Ribbon Report, May 2015

In 2014 ANCA commissioned the Blue Ribbon Report, a comprehensive report that explores what leaders in the field view as the societal and economic future of our industry over the next 25 years. The report identifies significant trends and developments and provides recommendations for how ANCA can continue to support the growth of nature centers in the future.

Read the full Research Report here and an article about the research here.

Major Themes:

  • Theme 1: Nature centers will need to establish relevancy in an increasingly nature disconnected society.
  • Theme 2: Nature centers will adapt funding for day to day operations and long-term sustainability.
  • Theme 3: Nature center programming will evolve.
  • Theme 4: Nature center professionals will develop modern skill sets.
  • Theme 5: Nature centers will strengthen their properties.

Recommendations for ANCA:

  1. Support the development of nature centers into conservation and restoration leaders. Champion nature centers which have successfully integrated conservation and/or restoration ethics into their organizations. Develop best practices for nature centers supporting conservation and restoration in their communities.
  2. Lead the conversation about education and advocacy concerning climate change. Investigate how nature centers in currently impacted regions are beginning to address climate change. Provide spaces for directors to discuss how centers can and should react.
  3. Develop best practices for integrating technology into programming and business models. Champion nature centers which have integrated technology in significant ways. Due to the fast pace of innovation, focus on ways to leverage social media and mobile technology rather than specific devices such as iPads.
  4. Develop best practices for resiliency to future economic downturns. Identify lessons learned from nature centers that were affected by the recession.
  5. Support the promotion of the value of nature centers. Conduct evaluation and outcome research on nature centers. Develop best practices for promoting the value of nature centers in the community.
  6. Be a catalyst for collaboration. Champion nature centers which have successfully collaborated with other organizations to increase the scale of their impact. Develop best practices for collaborating to win larger foundation grants. Facilitate discussions on the potential for nature center consortiums and coalitions.
  7. Promote innovative programming. Champion nature centers which have created successful programs for high schoolers, college students, and adults. Champion programs which have successfully integrated issue analysis, field research, and citzen science.
  8. Explore the horizon beyond school programming. Facilitate discussions of the value of traditional school programs. Provide spaces for directors to discuss new models of programming.
  9. Promote boards reflective of their communities. Champion nature centers which have benefited from diverse, reflective boards.

 

Nature Centers & Communities Study, March 2016

Nature centers hold tremendous potential to serve as hubs for learning and connection, not only between people and nature, but also between fellow community members. This study examined the relationship between nature centers and the people living around them – including both people who visit and people who don’t visit but still perceive value in a nature center existing in their community.

Read the Final Report Narrative here and the Final Report here.

Identifying the Drivers of Success in Educational Programs at Nature Centers and National Parks in the United States, Forthcoming

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services

Investigators: Robert B. Powell, Clemson University, and Marc J. Stern, Virginia Tech

This study will investiate environmental education (EE) programs for youth across the United States and identify the program characteristics that most powerfully influence positive student outcomes. Research has shown that such programs can achiece multiple positive outcomes, such as enhancing knowledge, skills, attitudes, and interests associated with scientific curiosity, environmental literacy, and civic engagement. Current best practices for delivering these programs, however, are based on the general consenses of academics and practitioners, rather than upon systematically collected empirical evidence. Most empirical research has been conducted on single programs, making lessons about why programs achieve certain outcomes difficult to discern. Such lessons can only be uncovered through comparatice reserach using consistent outcome measures. The study will directly address this gap in our knowledge.

We will visit 40 National Park Service units and nature centers distributed across the country. At each site, we will aim to observe at least 5 day programs over a period of two weeks. The data will be used to compare which mixtures of program characteristics most commoly produce the most positive outcomes for participants.