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Kathryn Stevenson

Assoc Professor


Biltmore Hall (Robertson Wing) 4008D


Kathryn is an associate professor in the Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management department. She has a BS in Biology from Davidson College and PhD in Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology from NC State. She’s worked in residential outdoor education and in the high school classroom teaching science. Kathryn’s research and teaching is around environmental education, exploring how kids benefit from time in nature as well as how kids can contribute to environmental solutions in unique ways.

I’m interested in both how environmental education can benefits kids, as well as the unique role kids can play in community responses to environmental challenges. Most of my coastal work has been around the latter focus. When kids talk with adults, they seem to be able to change the timbre of the conversation so that issues are a bit more salient and politics don’t matter so much. I’m interested in how intergenerational conversations can bring communities toward consensus on how to address pressing environmental challenges, such as climate change and its impacts.


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Date: 02/01/22 - 12/31/24
Amount: $119,995.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

In this two year grant, we propose to synthesize a decade of Sea Grant funded environmental literacy research into a scalable curricular framework that fosters coastal resiliency through youth-led conversations. In year one, we will form a curriculum advisory board (CAB) of teachers, students, and community partners. The CAB will work to construct a curricular framework that draws on best practices for youth-led environmental learning and builds community-level environmental literacy around coastal resiliency. The CAB will then recruit a cadre of classroom teachers to help pilot the framework, allowing for both formative and summative evaluation of the framework. We will then hold a culminating workshop to synthesize lessons learned and prepare the framework to export to other communities through larger regional and/or national grant efforts.

Date: 06/01/22 - 5/31/24
Amount: $516,000.00
Funding Agencies: Pisces Foundation

This project will contribute to building capacity for and strengthening the culture of culturally responsive EE evaluation through connecting the eeVAL resources developed with networks within the field.

Date: 10/01/19 - 9/29/23
Amount: $356,750.00
Funding Agencies: Institute of Museum & Library Services

Through a collaboration between the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) and NC State University (NCSU), the goal of this proposed Building Capacity, research-in-service-of-practice project is to develop and foster a Community of Practice (CoP) for collective evaluation among a set of 54 non-formal science museums across the state of North Carolina. Programs at science museums have the capacity to contribute to a variety of informal learning outcomes across diverse populations, increasing knowledge and understanding of science as well as broader science literacy. Evaluation provides concrete evidence regarding the degree to which an educational program is working to achieve these goals, thus informing important decisions regarding further design, development, and implementation. However, despite these benefits, evaluation is not widely utilized across the field of informal science education. Many non-formal science education entities conduct programs without knowing if they are working and, perhaps more importantly, without identifying what they are trying to achieve. Over three years, a series of regional professional development workshops and subsequent program evaluations will: 1) create a shared sense of purpose for programming and evaluation, 2) build capacity among science museum educators to conduct evaluation for their programs, and 3) establish a set of common metrics and methodologies for collective evaluation across the state and beyond. In addition, as the concept of collective evaluation is relatively new in museum programming and informal learning, evaluation efforts from this project will contribute to the scholarship of informal learning research and evaluation. In addition to evaluation of the project using the IMLS??????????????????s Building Capacity Performance Measure Statements, project success will be evaluated through mixed methods measurement of the achievement of defined project outcomes: 1) Increased perception of a common agenda among informal science education museums across the state of NC, 2) Increased use of common metrics across informal science education museums across the state of NC, 3) Increased capacity to conduct program evaluation within NC science museums, and 4) Increased levels of collaboration among informal science education museums across the state of NC.

Date: 12/31/21 - 7/01/23
Amount: $56,046.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

Achieving the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) goal of a 10% improvement in health, function, and connectivity in southeastern ecosystems by 2060 requires regional conservation efforts. Regional science based conservation partnerships are critical for AFWA goals (e.g., President??????????????????s task force report), national responses to SWAP revisions (Mawdsley et al., 2020), tackling the 30x30 initiative (Stein et al., 2021), and responding to climate change (Lackstrom et al., 2018). We propose addressing the primary gap in knowledge around viability of regional responses to wildlife conservation initiatives by surveying state agency leadership (at the division chief level) and field biologists from across the SEAFWA states. We will address several questions. First, we will measure which elements of wildlife conservation respondents are willing to engage in at a regional level and how much they are willing to push for a regional response to each element (Objective 1). The ten elements to be assessed include the eight required elements of the 2025 SWAPs as well as the 30x30 initiative and climate change adaptation. The SWAP elements, however, may be collapsed into a smaller set based on feedback from the project advisory board (e.g., planning for adaptive management and coordinating among stakeholders could be merged). Second, we will ask respondents what assistance is most valuable for developing regional responses (Objective 2). Third, we will ask participants to list perceived costs (e.g., interfering with long term data collection for indices) and benefits (e.g., leveraging resources across state borders) associated with regional planning for each element (Objective 3).

Date: 02/01/20 - 12/31/22
Amount: $119,998.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

Developing solutions to large-scale, collective coastal challenges requires environmentally literate communities. In order to achieve this, we need to further conceptualize and design associated measurements of environmental literacy (EL) that focus on communities rather than individuals. The questions become not how individuals understand and interact with the world around them, but how communities share information, understandings, and associated action plans. To date, few, if any, have developed definitions or associated metrics to assess or benchmark progress toward community-level EL. Further, child-based environmental education (EE) is a promising, but understudied, strategy to build community-level EL. Children have been shown to foster EL among adults, particularly among those who may be most resistant to engaging with environmental topics. Given that school-based EE can reach a large proportion of adults in communities through their children and that children can effectively engage adults in environmental issues, school-based EE may be an effective strategy to build shared understandings, motivations and action strategies (i.e., community-level EL). Accordingly, this project will work toward two objectives. We will first conduct an online DELPHI study, a structured communication technique, to develop definitions and measurements of community-level EL. Next, we will train 30 middle and high school teachers in a citizen-science and school-based EE program around water quality that is specifically designed to build community-level EL through intergenerational learning. We will test how this curriculum boosts both individual and community-level EL among students, teachers, parents, and community members across the state of North Carolina.

Date: 09/01/17 - 8/31/22
Amount: $499,536.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

This integrated (research, education, outreach) project will measure the educational and market impacts of agritourism among middle school students under three scenarios: unstructured (family recreational visits), semi-structured (school-based farm visits), and structured (farm visits in support of agricultural curricula) conditions. Specifically, it will investigate the impact of farm visits on children??????????????????s?????????????????? agricultural literacy and how that knowledge is transferred to their parents as purchasing intention of local agricultural products. Identifying the most high-impact forms of agritourism in terms of educational and market value will help to forge stronger connections between citizens and their local food producers, which in turn will contribute to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of local agricultural systems (AFRI??????????????????S overall goal) and strengthen rural communities?????????????????? economies (AFRI??????????????????s Priority 6). Through partnerships with agritourism farmers and elementary teachers across North Carolina this project will use experimental and quasi-experimental approaches to test changes in agricultural literacy (children) and locally-based purchasing behaviors (parents) via pre and post-tests surveys. Project results will help to: Determine which forms of agritourism are most suitable to increase agricultural literacy and stimulate the purchase of local agricultural products (Research); develop a measurement instrument for agricultural literacy (Research); train agritourism farmers so they can modify their programming offerings (e.g., tour content, farm signage) to increase agricultural literacy and locally-based purchasing behaviors (Extension); and enhance agricultural curricula content to strengthen students?????????????????? connection to local agricultural systems (Education).

Date: 01/01/20 - 6/30/22
Amount: $29,626.00
Funding Agencies: Pisces Foundation

Pisces Foundation has invited Charlotte Clark from Duke University and colleagues to submit an addendum to an ongoing effort to study collective evaluation efforts across the field of environmental education. The NC State team has been asked to characterizing the landscape of collective evaluation in EE beyond our case studies. This will include sleuthing out candidate networks, developing a relationship with a leader in that network, and documenting their work using an interview guide collaboratively developed with the Duke team. Work may also include creating a social network analysis of collaboratives engaging in collective evaluation, led by KC Busch. In addition, Kathryn Stevenson will co-chair the Promising Practices Working Group, which will include preparation time and calls/virtual meetings, as well as other tasks as needed.

Date: 06/01/21 - 5/31/22
Amount: $25,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

The overall objectives of this project are to characterize how youth in Craven County conceptualize coastal hazards and resilience efforts as well as to investigate how youth-led conversations might build common understanding and commitment to local coastal resilience efforts. The project will include collaboration among staff at the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plains and NC Sea Grant, faculty at NC State University, and students in Craven County. The objectives for the project are: 1) Gain a better understanding about how K-12 students in Craven County conceptualize disaster resilience; 2) Compare these conceptualizations to those of Craven County adults as well as current information campaigns in the area; 3) Gain a better understanding of how youth want to be engaged in disaster resilience efforts; 4) Co-develop with students potential ways to engage communities in conversations to increase resiliency; 5) Evaluate impacts of the engagement events on conceptualizations and commitment to coastal resiliency efforts among youth, parents, and community members.

Date: 06/01/19 - 5/31/22
Amount: $165,000.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Although research has noted the widespread impacts of climate change on agro-ecological systems, unfortunately, farmers represent some of the most climate skeptical groups of individuals, with upwards of 88% denying the contributions of humans of modern day climate change. Fortunately however, research has found that children, including agricultural high school students appear to be better at coming to a point of concensus on climate change, unlike their adult counterparts. As such, this NIFA postdoctoral fellowship application proposes an integrated project that aligns with the AFRI Farm Bill Priority Area of bioenergy, natural resources, and environmenta with the overall goal of leveraging the unique climate change views of agriculture high school students to increase the climate concern and willingess to implement climate resilient agriculture behaviors of their parents, through intergenerational transfer. To do this, 36 North Carolina high school agriculture teachers will be trained in the Project Learning Tree module, Southeastern Forests and Climate Change, and experimentally test the curriculum's effects on a minimum of 1800 students and 540 parents. To accomplish this, preservice agricultural teachers and environmental educators at North Carolina State University will be engaged through a robust service learning project giving them hands-on experience with teaching in agricultural classrooms and social science research methods. This project contributes to the post-doctoral program area of producing new scientists, and the overall AFRI goal of promoting the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems.

Date: 02/01/18 - 6/30/21
Amount: $119,998.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

Numerous coastal environmental challenges including salt water intrusion, marine debris, and water quality threaten North Carolina??????????????????s (NC) coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Associated scientific recommendations abound but deficiencies in environmental literacy (EL), and failure to use scientific knowledge in environmental decision making stymie local efforts to employ solutions. Environmental education (EE) among K-12 audiences may address these barriers, as it can build EL among future generations and emerging research suggest that these impacts may ????????????????trickle up??????????????? to parents, community members, and even decision makers if programs are designed with that goal in mind. For this project, we will partner with Duke University Marine Lab to scale up two citizen science-based EE projects currently being piloted through NSF support. Each of these projects is specifically designed to enhance intergenerational transfer. We will expand the projects to 30 middle grade classrooms across the CAMA counties and experimentally test impacts on knowledge of and engagement with coastal environmental challenges, environmental self-efficacy, and pro-environmental behavior among students; and increased salience of coastal environmental issues in the eyes of decision makers and community members with whom students engage.

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