Science Comprehension Retention Among Youth Agriscience Students Instructed in Weather and Climate

Thomas J. Dormody, Peter Skelton, Gabrielle Rodriguez, David W. Dubois, Dawn VanLeeuwen


The purpose of this article is to examine the science comprehension retention of 8th-grade science students taught a new weather and climate curriculum. The students’ middle school is part of an innovative Extension youth agricultural science center that has a mission to develop and test new teaching and learning models and curricula in agriculture and natural resources. Our curriculum was developed following a science comprehension model we created and have been testing at the center. It contained lessons on the water cycle, the greenhouse effect, measuring and analyzing precipitation and temperature data, and mitigating and adapting to weather and climate extremes in agriculture and natural resources. For each lesson, students viewed introductory PowerPoint slides, participated in an activating strategy, set up an experiment or analyzed local precipitation or temperature data, formulated hypotheses, participated in a summary activity, and completed a worksheet. We pretested 81 students, taught the curriculum over a 6-day period, and gave the posttest. We returned 2 months later to administer a follow-up to check for science comprehension retention. The students’ overall science comprehension and science knowledge, science skills, and reasoning abilities subcomponent follow-up scores were lower than their post-program test scores. Both boys and girls declined in their overall post-program test gains over the 2 months. Students also declined in their preference for learning-by-doing from post-test to follow-up. Based on these results, we made changes to the curriculum consistent with the literature on learning retention before publishing it online for youth educators.


experiential education; inquiry-based learning; NMSU Extension and Research Youth Agricultural Science Center; youth science comprehension retention; weather and climate curriculum

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