Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)




Elizabeth Hufnagel

Second Committee Member

Vanessa Klein

Third Committee Member

Asli Sezen-Barrie


When youth relate to environmental science on a deep, personal level they are more likely to retain information, as they make neural connections to significant lived experiences, and are more likely to be environmentally aware and engage in actions that benefit marine and freshwater ecosystems. In order to promote and encourage personally significant connections to environmental science ideas, tools, and practices, it’s important to design a curriculum or program that provides opportunities for reflection, discussion, and application. This thesis includes one practitioner manuscript that describes the development of a new design process for informal learning programs that incorporates evidence-based STEM instruction through the 5E Instructional Model, and best-practices of informal teaching through the 4-H adapted Experiential Learning Model. The design overlaps the two models, highlighting the ways the learning models both supplement and complement each other, which was created during the development of a 4-H Science Toolkit about sustainable fishing. With an emphasis on reflection, 21st century life skills, and socio-emotional learning, the sustainable fishing curriculum made space for opportunities for youth to express personally significant experiences, and use them to connect with environmental science ideas, tools, and practices. The empirical manuscript shared in this thesis highlights the ways four youth participants expressed personal significance about their appreciation and fascination of nature experiences, experiences with family and around place, and about a change of perspective in an after-school program that presented the 4-H Toolkit sustainable fishing curriculum. By taking a sociolinguistics approach, the sharing of these personally significant experiences made salient how youth were connecting to scientific tools, ideas, and practices on a deeply, personal level in the moment-to-moment interactions in the discourse of the after-school program.

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Education Commons