Konekto wants to assist in building bridges between the academic world and the practice of learning for nature, the environment and sustainability. This newsletter will be used to make relevant research more accessible to environmental education practioners.
Do you know of some interesting research being done, anywhere around the globe, that should be in this newsletter? Please let us know!
The United Nations Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 is a key initiative within global efforts to halt and eventually reverse the loss of biodiversity. The very first target of this plan states that ‘by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably’.
Zoos and aquariums worldwide, attracting more than 700 million visits every year, could potentially make a positive contribution to this target. However, a global evaluation of the educational impacts of visits to zoos and aquariums is entirely lacking in the existing literature. To address this gap, we conducted a large scale impact evaluation study, using a pre- and post-visit repeated measures survey design, to evaluate biodiversity literacy – biodiversity understanding and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity in zoo and aquarium visitors. Our findings are based on the largest and most international study of zoo and aquarium visitors ever conducted worldwide; in total, more than 6,000 visitors to 30 zoos and aquariums around the globe participated in the study.
The study’s main finding is that aggregate biodiversity understanding and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity both significantly increased over the course of zoo and aquarium visits. There was an increase from pre-visit (69.8%) to post‑visit (75.1%) in respondents demonstrating at least some positive evidence of biodiversity understanding. Similarly, there was an increase from pre‑visit (50.5%) to post‑visit (58.8%) in respondents that could identify a pro-biodiversity action that could be achieved at an individual level.
This study provides the most compelling evidence to date that zoo and aquarium visits can contribute to increasing the number of people who understand biodiversity and know actions they can take to help protect biodiversity.
Courtney Hanes has some interesting ideas about current education. She shares her thoughts on things we can learn from Pete Seeger (1919-2014). Mrs. Hanes is an online Literature teacher at the Riverside Virtual School in Riverside, Ca.
"Pete Seeger had a public life. He was a critical pedagogist who questioned the status quo, and through his music, attempted to make sense of cultural situations and circumstances. He was active politically and socially, and once said, “The world will be saved when people realize we all have to pitch in. You can’t just pay your money and hope that someone else will do the job right.” With all the current talk about Common Core Standards, I can’t help but wonder why there is not a larger focus on civics education, on creating thoughtful and informed citizens who care enough to get involved, and are liberated to make a difference. This is what educators can learn from Pete Seeger."
Susan Clayton, 1 John Fraser, 2 and Claire Burgess 3
1 Department of Psychology, The College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio.
2 Institute for Learning Innovation, New York, New York.
3 Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
As locations where social interactions center on animals, zoos may enable the development of an environmental identity that encourages concern for animals. Two field studies of zoo visitors assessed the level of concern for animals and predictors of that concern and looked for behaviors that might foster identity and concern.
In one study, 1514 adult visitors were surveyed and 265 different visitors were observed. Environmental identity, sense of connection to the animal, and perceived similarity to the animal were all correlated with interest in conservation and general environmental concern. Although there were no significant differences in survey responses before entering an exhibit compared with those obtained as visitors were exiting, responses differed according to exhibit. Exhibits where more comparisons to humans were made tended to evoke higher ratings of support for helping animals.
A second study recorded
interactions among 805 visitor groups. The data suggested that viewing the animals was primarily a social activity, which served to promote social interaction and, in some cases, enabled discussion about a shared conception of the human relationship with animals.
We conclude that zoos provide an opportunity to create and nurture a social identity that emphasizes connection to animals
This toolkit is one outcome of a three year project entitled: ‘Hybrid problem based learning: a scalable approach to sustainability education?’ funded by the Higher Education Academy's National Teaching Fellowship Scheme. It is a collaboration between Keele University, the University of Manchester and Staffordshire University. The project aimed to explore effective ways of adapting traditional problem – based learning approaches for the delivery of transformative sustainability education to large student numbers.
This toolkit is aimed at educators wishing to learn more about any one of the following areas:
- traditional and hybrid problem-based learning;
- delivering less resource intensive PBL;
- the use of online learning technologies/social media in group-based teaching and learning;
Societal response to climate change has been inadequate. A perception that the issue is both physically and temporally remote may reduce concern; concern may also be affected by the political polarization surrounding the issue in the USA. A feeling of connection to nature or to animals may increase personal relevance, and a supportive social context may counteract political tensions. Zoos may provide opportunities for both sense of connection and social support. We surveyed over 7000 zoo and aquarium visitors to examine the ways in which a feeling of personal connection among zoo visitors may encourage concern about climate change. Results show that feeling connected to animals at the zoo is significantly associated with cognitive and emotional responses to climate change, as well as with other social groupings and social responses. Overall, the zoo seems to present a supportive social context for considering the topic.
Susan Clayton , Jerry Luebke , Carol Saunders , Jennifer Matiasek & Alejandro Grajal , Environmental Education Research (2013): Connecting to nature at the zoo: implications for responding to climate change, Environmental Education Research, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2013.816267
This paper discusses the current status of all aspects of education for sustainable development (ESD) across the United Kingdom (UK), drawing on evidence from its political jurisdictions (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), and setting out some characteristics of best practice.
The paper analyzes current barriers to progress, and outlines future opportunities for enhancing the core role of education and learning in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. Although effective ESD exists at all levels, and in most learning contexts across the UK, with good teaching and enhanced learner outcomes, the authors argue that a wider adoption of ESD would result from the development of a strategic framework which puts it at the core of the education policy agenda in every jurisdiction. This would provide much needed coherence, direction and impetus to existing initiatives, scale up and build on existing good practice, and prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and resources.
The absence of an overarching UK strategy for sustainable development that sets out a clear vision about the contribution learning can make to its goals is a major barrier to progress. This strategy needs to be coupled with the establishment of a pan-UK forum for overseeing the promotion, implementation and evaluation of ESD.
Martin, Stephen; Dillon, James; Higgins, Peter; Peters, Carl; Scott, William. 2013. "Divergent Evolution in Education for Sustainable Development Policy in the United Kingdom: Current Status, Best Practice, and Opportunities for the Future." Sustainability 5, no. 4: 1522-1544
Livia D. Dittmer & Manuel Riemer Wilfrid Laurier University
This article argues for the participation of community psychology in issues of global climate change. The knowledge accumulated and experience gained in the discipline of community psychology have great relevance to many topics related to the environment. Practitioners of community psychology could therefore make significant contributions to climate change mitigation.
To illustrate this assertion, the authors describe an education project conducted with youth engaged in a community-based environmental organization. This initiative was motivated by the idea that engaged and critically aware youth often become change agents for social movements. Towards this purpose, rather than using mass marketing strategies to motivate small behavior changes, this project focused intensively on a few youth with the vision that these youth would also influence those around them to rethink their environmental habits.
This project was influenced by five community psychology concepts: stakeholder participation, ecological and systems thinking, social justice, praxis, and empirical grounding. In this article we discuss the influence of these concepts on the project’s outcomes, as measured through an evaluative study conducted to assess the impacts of the project on the participating youth in terms of their thinking and action. The contributions of community psychology were found to have greatly impacted the quality of the project and the outcomes experienced by the youth.
Global Journal Of Community Psychology Practice, 4(1), 2013.
Environmental education is frequently undertaken as a conservation intervention designed to change the attitudes and behaviour of recipients. Much conservation education is aimed at children, with the rationale that children influence the attitudes of their parents, who will consequently change their behaviour. Empirical evidence to substantiate this suggestion is very limited, however. For the first time, the researchers used a controlled trial to assess the influence of wetland-related environmental education on the knowledge of children and their parents and household behaviour. They demonstrate adults exhibiting greater knowledge of wetlands and improved reported household water management behaviour when their child has received wetland-based education at Seychelles wildlife clubs. The research team distinguishes between 'folk' knowledge of wetland environments and knowledge obtained from formal education, with intergenerational transmission of each depending on different factors. This study provides the first strong support for the suggestion that environmental education can be transferred between generations and indirectly induce targeted behavioural changes.
The COMENIUS multilateral network CODES* (organising institution) and its partner RCE Rhine-Meuse (hosting institution) have the pleasure to invite you to the upcoming conference:
“Living sustainable community-school collaboration: Learning for the future” Working Conference in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, May 13th to 15th 2013
CODES second Conference will gather all stakeholders of school and community collaboration. The aims of the event are sharing experiences, getting a first insight on CoDeS products and having a platform for feedback based on own experiences to the authors groups.
Your experience in school and community collaboration is very important for CODES work. We warmly invite you to participate and to contribute to the Conference in Kerkrade.
*CoDeS is a large Comenius network funded by the EU. The focus of CoDeS lies on experiences, key elements, methods and conditions of school-community cooperation. CoDeS network aims to include a European perspective on effective models, learning methods and tools as well as aspects of inclusion for a wide range of actors. CoDeS conferences open a forum for collaboration and debate of all stakeholders and the network partners.
A new study reports on the results of a three year longitudinal study of children (age 8‐10) who participated in NatureWise, a nature immersion programme that takes children into the forest under the guidance of a forest ranger three times a year. NatureWise (NW) is a carefully designed programme that requires school‐based preparation for each of the so‐called forest days as well as school‐based reflection on the significance and lessons learnt of each on those days. The programme seeks to develop ‘head’ (development of cognitive understanding of ecological principles and life in and management of the forest), ‘hart’ (development of affective, emotional bonding with nature and associated values) and, ‘hands’ (development of psycho‐motor skills needed to care for nature).
An experimental design was created that included 6 primary schools, 3 from urban areas and 3 from more rural areas. In each school for each participating grade a NatureWise‐class was followed as was a control class which did not participate in NW but followed the normal nature education programme that can be considered typical for most Dutch primary schools. Within each class a group of eight pupils was followed more intensively to obtain a deeper understanding of the children’s development. Children’s concept‐maps and activity booklets (in year 1 and year 3 of the study) were analyzed as well as interviews with the eight focus children from each class. In addition all participating teachers (n=24) were interviewed about their understanding of nature education in general and NW in particular (for those who participated in NW) as well as about the changes they observed in the children and about the influence of the children’s home‐situation on their exposure to and connection with nature. In addition classes were observed periodically during lessons about nature. In total 185 children between the ages of 8 and 10 participated in the study. Methodologically the study can be classified as a phenomenological.
The research shows that most children, not all, benefit from participating in NW frequently over a 2‐3 year which is expressed in an increase in knowledge of nature, deepened sensory and affective engagement with nature, and more sensitive behaviour towards nature. The added value of NW lies is multiple: children are in a position to establish direct contact with nature, children gain more confidence and interest in nature which helps them understand information about nature that comes to them through the media, children are better positioned to develop empathy towards another species, children come to see the importance of caring for nature, children are given hands‐on opportunities to care for nature, and, finally, children get to enjoy being in nature aesthetically, psycho‐motorically and intellectually. All this combined makes children more inclined to actively seek nature. The research therefore confirms the key premises of experience‐oriented nature education programmes, although it should be noted 10 that not all participating students display such a development and that in the control group some students display a similar development under favourable conditions in the school and/or home environment.
See the full report (in Dutch with an English Abstract) for more results.
Toen ik er meer over ging weten werd het leuk: arjenwals.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/toen-ik-er-meer-over-ging-weten-werd-het-leuk-compleet3ukabstract.pdf
The study was conducted by a team of researchers consisting of Marlon van der Waal and Dieuwke Hovinga (OVC-Advies & Lector Hogeschool Leiden) – who both did the bulk of the research – and Kris van Koppen (Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University) and Arjen Wals (Education and Competences Group, Wageningen University).
This PhD thesis by Jo Anna Reed Johnson explores the extent to which Eco-schools were able to develop whole school approaches to education for sustainable development during the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Current educational systems in many countries do not always allow schools to engage in pedagogies of participation (Lotz-Sisitka 2004, O’Donoghue and Lotz-Sisitka 2006), democratic styles of learning and critical thinking (Sterling 2003), which this study highlighted.
The aim of this study was to examine the vision for education for sustainable development (ESD), being driven by UNESCO, and its reality in practice in two eco-schools, in England and in South Africa. Cultural stories were compared as idiosyncratic cases through a common reporting structure based on aspects of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991) and whole-school approaches (Shallcross 2006a, Shallcross et al. 2006). This book should be especially useful to policy makers, educational scholars, academics and students in the field of environmental education (EE/ESD) in England and South Africa and those in the field of global education agendas.
How can you ensure that people do not only spend time thinking about important global issues like climate change or world food supplies, but also roll up their sleeves and do something about them? Four researchers, including Professor Arjen Wals from Wageningen University, think that the education sector holds the key. Teaching processes around the world could be given more influence and meaning by making pure science subjects, such as biology and physics, complementary to lessons in nature, environment and sustainability. Their article on this new approach to teaching, which is based on citizen science, is published in the 9 May edition of Science.
Throughout the world, ‘pure’ science subjects such as physics, chemistry, biology, maths, geography and general natural sciences, which traditionally aim to build up knowledge and understanding, are seen separately from subjects such as nature and the environment, which together with the latest branch ‘sustainability education’ take a more practical approach. Although this certainly makes scholars aware of the current condition of our planet, their lack of practical perspective evokes a sense of powerlessness. For example, what can you do to prevent or respond adequately to forthcoming climate shifts? Affinity with politics, society and the economy are essential in this respect. Conversely, education in nature, the environment and sustainability (aka ‘environmental education’) does not equip scholars with the scientific insight they need to back up their proposed remedies.
Convergence When taught separately, natural sciences and environmental education give a disjointed answer to society’s demand for a truly sustainable society. “It’s time these two schools converged,” says Arjen Wals, Professor of Social Learning and Sustainable Development at Wageningen University. “If we cannot create a firm link between these two educational areas, scientific education is in jeopardy of becoming purely a vehicle for enhancing the innovative and competitive potential of a country’s economy”, he says. “At the same time, without a firm link with the sciences, environmental education will never be able to find a responsible and realistic way of dealing with the contradictions and uncertainties that are raised in the scientific debate surrounding questions of sustainability.”
The authors of the article in Science give a number of examples of environmental education, which cover the area where science meets society. Among them is the American concept of Edible School Gardens, whereby schoolchildren grow their own food in an educational garden while simultaneously learning about the things they grow in science lessons. The Dutch version is known as Groene schoolpleinen (‘green school grounds’). Another good example is YardMap, based on IT and citizen science. Citizens, both young and old, analyse biodiversity in their own neighbourhood by means of digital photos, special apps and Google Maps. The aim is to identify the areas with the greatest potential for boosting biodiversity. Action plans designed to ensure that the YardMaps are kept fully up-to-date are drawn up and implemented on the basis of studies and in consultation with scientists and local partners (including the municipal authority, garden centres and an NGO). The various YardMaps are linked via social media. The Dutch Natuurkalender works in much the same way.
Creating closer ties between citizen science, scientific education and environmental education will help citizens and scientists to take a meaningful and practical approach to the pursuit of sustainability. Wals: “It’s not just about linking up the content; it involves developing new competencies such as dealing with complexity, uncertainty and confusion, and devising and implementing meaningful local solutions”. This method of learning may also help to restore the damage to public confidence in science. The government will have to put more effort into stimulating and supporting the ‘hybrid teaching environments’ that blur the boundaries between science and society, school and neighbourhood, local and global, and shift the emphasis to the wellbeing of mankind and the planet.
Transition Calls for transition and another way of thinking are becoming more urgent, says Professor Wals: “At the end of the day, the climate problem is as much in between our ears, as it is between the North and South Poles”. He backs this up with a remarkable conclusion: to his mind, the role of education and citizen involvement has been seriously underemphasised in the climate debate. In fact he wonders if we will ever be able to bring about a transition without committed, critical and competent citizens, who aspire to values that are not purely based on the material side of their existence but also on care for fellow human beings and, indeed, other species, here and elsewhere, now and in the future.
Join in the discussion on #CitizenScience
Wals, A.E.J., Brody, M., Dillon, J. and Stevenson, R.B. (2014) Convergence Between Science and Environmental Education, Science, 344, p. 583-584.
The Research Agency of the Forestry Commission, 2010
This review explored research relating to education and learning outdoors and particularly that which take s place in, or focuses on, tree, woods and forests. A desk-based review was undertaken supplemented by a small number of interviews.
Tree, wood and forest (TWF) education and learning (E&L) is any activity which takes place in, or focuses on, the specific environment or context of TWF and which provides opportunities for the participant to engage with or learn about those environments. Many outdoor and TWF focused activities which are not explicitly designed to have E&L objectives may have relevant learning outcomes. For instance programmes or activities which aim to increase levels of activity in woodland settings may result in greater engagement with and knowledge of TWF.
The Forestry Commission in England, Scotland and Wales, is one of a number of organisations, which delivers a wide range of E&L opportunities and activities in woods and forests for all ages. The Forestry Commission in each country delivers E&L through the following mechanisms:
Direct formal provision of E&L: curriculum and non curriculum based, forest apprenticeships and work placements.Facilitation: partnerships such as the Forest Education Initiative, grants and funding such as the Forest School Woodland Improvement Grant, teacher/educator support and trainingResource provision: physical resources and educational materialsInterpretation: led visits and self use interpretationPlay: provision of play activities and opportunitiesCampaigns and events: through national media or schoolsProjects/programmes where E&L is often an outcome but not a specific focus of the project e.g. health projects, volunteering, ‘friends of’ groups.
The focus of the research identified for this review has primarily been on more formal provision of outdoor E&L and on children and young people. Less is known about E&L associated specifically with trees and woods; what there is has predominantly focused on Forest School. Much of the research has explored personal, social and emotional development rather than specific educational outcomes.
Evidence from this review suggests that outdoor learning may result in:
improved personal and interpersonal skills including communication and teamworkthe accumulation of social capital, in particular fostering pride, belonging and involvement in the community more positive attitudes regarding the natural environmentthe acquisition of academic skills and knowledge.
This book outlines theory and practice that will enable and encourage teachers to systematically and progressively incorporate meaningful outdoor learning opportunities into their daily teaching activities in a wide variety of environments and with diverse populations of pupils. This is the first textbook based around the curriculum for prospective and practising primary and secondary teachers and other outdoor educators. The principles and examples presented are intended to be adapted by teachers to suit the needs of their students in ways that draw upon content offered by the local landscape and its natural and built heritage. Although the focus of this book is ‘the real world’ beyond the classroom, it is also about good teaching — wherever it takes place. While there are chapters on practical issues such as risk-management and supervising groups outdoors, the chapters on curriculum, sustainability, curiosity, responsibility, and educational communities will serve as a valuable guide for anyone interested in applying educational theory to practice.
"The United Nations designated the decade 2005-2014 as the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Practices of environmental education (EE) are facing this changing policy discourse and practice and are challenged to find new ways to relate to it. Drawing on an empirical analysis of the policymaking process in Flanders as well as of seven very diverse EE practices we aim at grasping the educational dynamics emerging in concrete practices within a policy-context focusing on ESD.
Throughout the history of EE and ESD education is pre-eminently framed as an instrument to tackle social and ecological challenges through a narrowly conceived process of socialisation. Sustainability appears as a goal that can be reached by applying the proper learning strategies and, thus, education is reduced to the acquisition of those skills, competences, knowledge, or dispositions that are regarded vital so as to qualify people for sustainable behaviour or for active, democratic, and sustainable citizenship.
Our analysis of the scholarly discussion about EE and ESD shows how this narrow focus on learning is inadequate so as to grasp what is at stake in educational practices addressing sustainability issues. Researchers on EE and ESD point at the importance of educational practices that, in one way or another, take into account the far-reaching implications of sustainability issues. Yet, all the same criticism is raised about the expectation that these educational practices can solve social and political problems. A variety of different opinions exists simultaneously centred around the paradox between acknowledging pluralism and taking into account sustainability concerns. The insights of Bruno Latour and Noortje Marres about public issues inspired us to develop a conception of EE and ESD that moves beyond normative socialisation without falling into a sheer plurality of opinions, values, interests, and points of view. Thus, this doctoral research aims at deepening our understanding of what it means to approach sustainability issues as public issues within educational processes.
Our analysis of the interaction between policymaking and educational practices shows the emergence of a regime that fosters the privatisation rather than public-isation of sustainability issues within EE practices. That is, policymakers as well as practitioners and participants are somehow expected to be willing and able to see these practices, think and speak about them and act in/toward them in a very particular way and, as a result, EE practices tend to contain (instead of proliferate) contestation and controversy and to limit (rather than broaden) the public around sustainability issues. Yet, this regime to which ESD policymaking contributes does not force EE practices to the privatisation of sustainability issues. It is merely appealing for such practices. As our case study reveals, at particular moments EE practices do create a space for public-isation and, thus, resist the appeal for privatisation. By bringingthisforward in our descriptions we want to invite and inspire the reader to be attentive to different ways of seeing, speaking, thinking, and acting."
The study described in this report represents the largest (n = 3018) and most methodologically robust investigation of the educational value of zoos for children and adolescents ever conducted worldwide. This research evaluates (1) the impact of ZSL London Zoo Formal Learning educational presentations and unguided zoo visits, (2) pupils’ development of new knowledge and (3) pupils’ perceptions of zoos, science and wildlife conservation.
Using methods developed during a pilot study conducted in spring 2009 with primary school (Wagoner & Jensen 2010) and post-16 pupils (Jensen & Wagoner, under review) attending London Zoo Formal Learning presentations, both the quality and quantity of learning are directly assessed. The present study is aimed at both informing practice at the ZSL London Zoo Discovery & Learning Department and at developing robust evidence of the degree to which zoo-based science and conservation educationcan have a positive impact for children and adolescents.
Anthropomorphism has recently emerged in the literature as a useful tool for conservation. Within the current conservation literature, description of the development of anthropomorphisms and the range of species that can be anthropomorphized overlooks established and emerging evidence from anthropological and other social science studies of human–animal relationships.
This research shows that people anthropomorphize a very broad range of species, including plants. We discuss how people construct anthropomorphic meanings around species, through a diversity of mechanisms and with both positive and negative effects. We then review the many gradations and forms of anthropomorphism, and some related conceptions in non-Western cultures, which have different types of utility for conservation. Finally we discuss cases where animals are anthropomorphized but with negative outcomes for human-animal interactions and conservation.
Limiting the use of anthropomorphism in conservation to pro-social, intelligent, suffering animals risks suggesting that other species are not worthy of conservation because they are not like humans in the ‘‘right’’ ways. It would also mean overlooking the application of a powerful tool to the promotion of low-profile species with high biological conservation value. We emphasize that negative outcomes and conflicts with ecosystem-level conservation actions are also possible and need to be carefully managed. Use of anthropomorphism conservation must take into account how people engage with species and attribute value to their characteristics.
Root-Bernstein et al. (2013). Anthropomorphized species as tools for conservation: utility beyond prosocial, intelligent and suffering species. Biodiversity Conservation. 22:1577–1589.
Urban environmental educators are trying to connect students to the urban environment and nature, and thus develop a certain sense of place. To do so, educators involve students in environmental stewardship, monitoring, activism, and outdoor recreation in cities. At the same time, sense of place has been linked to pro-environmental behaviors and other desired educational outcomes. However, the related literature from environmental psychology has rarely been applied to environmental education research, particularly in cities. In this dissertation, Kudravtsev applies the sense of place framework to environmental education, and explore the development of sense of place among high school students in seven after-school and summer urban environmental education programs in the Bronx, New York City.
First, Kudravtsev reviewed the academic literature on urban environmental education in the United States to better understand educational programs in the Bronx. He found that urban environmental education programs may pursue several goals, and one of them is teaching about cities as social-ecological systems in which both social and natural components are essential.
Second, Kudravtsev reviewed the literature on sense of place, including its role in environmental education. He conceptualized the idea of ecological place meaning, i.e., viewing environmental and nature-related phenomena as symbols or valued elements of places.
Third, in 2010, Kudravtsev explored the impact of urban environmental education on sense of place among students. He conducted pre/post surveys with 87 urban high school students (mean age = 16), including 64 students in 6–week urban environmental programs (experimental group), and 23 students in non-environmental, summer youth employment programs (control group). Results showed that urban environmental education programs significantly strengthened ecological place meaning but did not influence place attachment among experimental students; no changes were found in the control group.
Fourth, Kudravtsev collected and interpreted nine educators’ and five students’ narrative profiles to explore the reasons for and approaches to developing ecological place meaning in the city. The narrative analysis showed that educators are trying to cultivate ecological place meaning among students to help them understand and appreciate urban nature and places, and imagine how the urban environment could be improved. Narratives also demonstrated that ecological place meaning is nurtured among students through direct experiences of urban places, social interactions with educators and environmentalists, and the development of students’ ecological identity.
This dissertation raises questions about how nature-related phenomena in cities — including wetlands and terrestrial ecosystems, green infrastructure, and nature-related outdoor activities such as environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation — are valued by urban residents. Urban environmental education strengthens students’ appreciation of the urban environment and nature, and experiences in these programs themselves become part of students’ ecological place meaning.
Building environmental literacy (EL) in children and adolescents is critical to meeting current and emerging environmental challenges worldwide. Although environmental education (EE) efforts have begun to address this need, empirical research holistically evaluating drivers of EL is critical.
This study begins to fill this gap with an examination of school-wide EE programs among middle schools in North Carolina, including the use of published EE curricula and time outdoors while controlling for teacher education level and experience, student attributes (age, gender, and ethnicity), and school attributes (socio-economic status, student-teacher ratio, and locale). Our sample included an EE group selected from schools with registered school-wide EE programs, and a control group randomly selected from NC middle schools that were not registered as EE schools.
Students were given an EL survey at the beginning and end of the spring 2012 semester. Use of published EE curricula, time outdoors, and having teachers with advanced degrees and mid-level teaching experience (between 3 and 5 years) were positively related with EL whereas minority status (Hispanic and black) was negatively related with EL. Results suggest that school-wide EE programs were not associated with improved EL, but the use of published EE curricula paired with time outdoors represents a strategy that may improve all key components of student EL. Further, investments in teacher development and efforts to maintain enthusiasm for EE among teachers with more than 5 years of experience may help to boost student EL levels. Middle school represents a pivotal time for influencing EL, as improvement was slower among older students. Differences in EL levels based on gender suggest boys and girls may possess complementary skills sets when approaching environmental issues. Our findings suggest ethnicity related disparities in EL levels may be mitigated by time spent in nature, especially among black and Hispanic students.
Citation: Stevenson KT, Peterson MN, Bondell HD, Mertig AG, Moore SE (2013) Environmental, Institutional, and Demographic Predictors of Environmental Literacy among Middle School Children. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59519. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059519
Calls for the improvement of science education in the USA continue unabated, with particular concern for the quality of learning opportunities for students from historically nondominant communities. Despite many and varied efforts, the field continues to struggle to create robust, meaningful forms of science education.
We argue that ‘settled expectations’ in schooling function to (a) restrict the content and form of science valued and communicated through science education and (b) locate students, particularly those from nondominant communities, in untenable epistemological positions that work against engagement in meaningful science learning.
In this article we examine two episodes with the intention of reimagining the relationship between science learning, classroom teaching, and emerging understandings of grounding concepts in scientific fields – a process we call desettling. Building from the examples, we draw out some key ways in which desettling and reimagining core relations between nature and culture can shift possibilities in learning and development, particularly for nondominant students.
Recently a monograph containing (Re)views of Social Learning Literature in the context of Natural Resource Management & Environmental Education was published by the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) in conjuntion with WESSA, Rhodes University, Wageningen University and the Environmental Learning Centre. On the cover page it states: "This monograph provides four different reviews on social learning literature. Rather than seeking to be comprehensive, the reviews provide views on the social learning literature, from different perspectives. The papers scope aspects of the social learning literature, providing access to a wide body of literature(s) on social learning. This monograph should be useful for researchers interested in social learning in the fields of environmental education and natural resources management."
The monograph was edited by Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka of Rhodes University and the result of collaboration between Wageningen University and Rhodes with support of SANPAD (the South Africa - Netherlands Partnership for Development funded by the Dutch government) and the UNESCO Chair on Social Learning and Sustainable Development.
The study, involving Portuguese children, found that physical activity alone was not enough to overcome the negative effect of sedentary behaviour on basic motor coordination skills such as walking, throwing or catching, which are considered the building blocks of more complex movements.
"Childhood is a critical time for the development of motor coordination skills which are essential for health and well-being," said lead author Dr Luis Lopes, from the University of Minho. "We know that sedentary lifestyles have a negative effect on these skills and are associated with decreased fitness, lower self-esteem, decreased academic achievement and increased obesity."
Dr Lopes' team studied 110 girls and 103 boys aged nine to ten from 13 urban elementary schools. The children's sedentary behaviour and physical activity were objectively measured with accelerometers (a small device that children attach to their waist that quantifies movement counts and intensities) over five consecutive days. Motor coordination was evaluated with the KTK test (Körperkoordination Test für Kinder), which includes balance, jumping laterally, hopping on one leg over an obstacle and shifting platforms.
The tests were supplemented with a questionnaire for parents to assess health variables, before the authors compiled the results into three models to calculate odd ratios for predicting motor coordination. These were adjusted for physical activity, accelerometer wear time, waist to height ratio and home variables.