Screens on Trails: Digital Environmental Science, Arts, and Humanities Learning for Biocultural Conservation

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Markiewicz, Julie; Goralnik, Lissy; O’Connell, Kari. 2023. Screens on Trails: Digital Environmental Science, Arts, and Humanities Learning for Biocultural Conservation. In: Rozzi, R., Tauro, A., Avriel-Avni, N., Wright, T., May Jr., R.H. (eds). Field Environmental Philosophy. Ecology and Ethics, vol 5. 33.555-576. doi:


The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (HJA), a Long-Term Ecological Research site in the Oregon Cascades, hosts long-term ecological research on the old growth forest and a long-running artist- and writers-residency program. This interdisciplinary investigation of place is featured on the Discovery Trail, an interpreted learning experience in the HJA for middle and high school students. The environmental science, arts, and the humanities (eSAH) inquiry-based curriculum on the Discovery Trail aims to facilitate engagement with both content and place, while providing learners opportunities to develop their own relationships with place through sensory interaction. The content is delivered through portable tablet computers (iPads), which allow for place engagement across time and season through audio and video media. While research on digital technology use in the classroom demonstrates a host of benefits, technology in field-based contexts is much less studied. We conducted an exploratory mixed methods study to investigate the impacts of technology on the Discovery Trail on learner engagement with place and content. Results show both benefits and challenges to learner engagement when using the tablets. In this chapter, we describe our research with 108 middle school learners from central Oregon on the Discovery Trail, as well as provide suggestions for content delivery and group preparation that can address potential challenges of employing this innovative pedagogy for biocultural conservation.
Keywords: Affective learning, Digital technology, Engagement, Environmental education, Place-based relationships