of some of these programs and describe areas that need further analysis, we consider findings from two studies closely.
Brossard et al. (2005) studied participants in The Birdhouse Network (TBN) to explore the hypotheses that participation in this program resulted in new knowledge of bird biology and behavior (Strand 2), a richer sense of science as practiced by scientists (Strand 4), and more positive attitudes toward science (Strand 6). Participants were asked to place “one or more nest boxes in their yards or neighborhoods, then to observe and report data on the nest boxes and their inhabitants while following one or more of four different protocols focusing on the clutch size of each nest; the calcium intake by the birds; the feathers used in the nests; and the nest site selection. Participants receive detailed explanations of the scientific protocols to be followed, biological information about cavity-nesting species, and practical information concerning nest box design, construction, and monitoring. Interaction with TBN staff by phone, email, or through an electronic mailing list is strongly encouraged” (p. 1103).
Using a quasi-experimental design Brossard and colleagues administered pre- and post-surveys to a nonrandom sample of TBN participants (300 pre-, 200 post-, and 400 science-interested new TBN member nonparticipants in the control group). The response rates for the treatment group were 57 percent (at pretest) and 63 percent (at posttest), and for the control group, 29 and 53 percent, respectively. To measure knowledge, attitude, and interest in science, the researchers used several instruments that are commonly used repeatedly in science education research (such as the Attitudes Towards Organized Science Scale, ATOSS). In addition, a team of scientists, science communicators, and science educators developed an instrument to test participants’ knowledge of 10 specific concepts and facts pertaining to bird behavior and biology, reflected in such statements as “Most songbirds lay one egg per day during the breeding season,” “Clutch size refers to the number of eggs a female bird can fit in her nest,” and “All birds line their nest with feathers.”
There was found significant improvement in the treatment group’s specific knowledge of bird biology and behavior, while the control group showed no significant change. There were no significant changes in the treatment or comparison group’s understanding of the scientific process or in attitudes toward science and the environment. This may have been due to a ceiling effect. Both the control and the comparison groups were part of TBN and thus may have been interested in and knowledgeable about science and the environment prior to the study. The authors theorized that the program had the potential to influence participants’ understanding of the nature of science, but that this particular goal would need to be made explicit to them.
Results from a study of participants in a different program revealed a different pattern of outcomes. Overdevest and colleagues (2004) studied participants in the Water Action Volunteer (WAV) Program, a volunteer stream