- Zimmerman, Jacquelyn
University of Maine Graduate School
Environmental educators rely on their education work as away to communicate forest information, values, beliefs, and ideas to the general public. An important component to understanding, coordinating and improving these educational efforts is to study the educators themselves. Their values, beliefs, and goals have an impact on the education that is developed for the public. The purpose of this study was to explore the connections between the educator's value belief system (VBS) and their education efforts by identifying salient processes within that connection. There was additional interest in the role that motivational goals, perceptions of autonomy, and perceptions of competence provided in determining the intensions and behaviors of the FC educators. Employees from 23 different forestry organizations, businesses, and groups were interviewed about the education, communication, and outreach they perform within their jobs. A semi- structured style was used for the interviews with questions developed in an open ended manner that allowed for exploring such topics as educational and forest resource interest and experience; work identities; the developmental process used in education; recommendations for improving education; beliefs about Maine forests and residents; and about personal goals, outcomes, success stories, and challenges within their FC organization. It was originally thought prior to this study that the values and belief of the FC organizations and groups were a contributing factor to the development of the educator's attitudes which in turn would affect their behaviors (i.e. personal goals and motivations, methods, messages and content used, and target audiences). We discovered that the personal and professional identify roles were important links between VBS and education effort. A relationship was observed among the educators' perceptions of autonomy, competence, relatedness. Educators indicated these three needs in reference to their perception of need for collaboration and peer-assistance within the FC when developing forest-based education. This means that an educator's approach to education, communication, and outreach is influenced by their beliefs, values, and identities which in turn contribute to their personal goals, motivations, and justifications for education. By examining commonalities that existed among the FC educators there were similarities found in their values of Maine's forests and the belief that forests need to be kept as forests. These commonalities among diverse FCs suggest that collaboration among all of the FCs is possible and that a unified message or theme might be crafted that represents these areas of consensus. This research contributes to the field of forest resources and education by providing further insight into how the self contributes to our communication about forests. Furthermore, there exists the potential for a more concentrated effort among FC that provides a clearer and more concise forest resource message for the public of Maine improving the chance for a successful communication effort.