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Operationalizing environmental education: Informal ocean & coastal education in Orange County


This project investigated the landscape of motivations, strategies, and goals of informal ocean science centers in Orange County, Ca. The projected is situated within a larger context of expectations and definitions of environmental education, and the knowledge-to-action pathway, framed by education and social movement mobilization theories. The objective was to understand how ocean education is put into action on-the-ground across the county, and how cohesive the expectations for outcomes are within the environmental education for sustainability framework. Director or equivalent level employees of five centers were interviewed. While the centers’ missions vary, they all hope for ultimately the same things, employ similar strategies, and programs address similar issues. Responses indicate, first, that integration with formal schooling while a factor in content creation helps bolster the efforts of environmental education but also highlights a need to attend to both formal and informal structures for broader social and environmental change. Second, emotional connection is considered a critical element to move visitors to action. Third, the center-based informal ocean educators serve or intend to serve as change incubators for improved knowledge formation, delivery, and training.

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