First posted on 02-22-2013
Sometimes without even realizing it, a child can directly impact the attitude and behavior of her parents with respect to the environment. Researchers have now quantified how environmental education is passed from a young generation to an older one, and how that new knowledge influences behavior.
While the study took place on the Seychelles islands, the results may be applied just about anywhere. The Seychelles has a long history of environmental education in a place where wastewater, litter and wetland reclamation degraded freshwater habitats on the islands.
Several wildlife clubs provide environmental education to school children through activities and other learning experiences. These wildlife clubs assist all educational institutions on the islands with broader interactive activities than are possible in a classroom.
“School children in the Seychelles are fortunate to have a curriculum that emphasizes the teaching of environmental concepts across a broad range of subjects,” said Peter Damerell, who authored the study.
The study leaned on the use of questionnaires issued to all students and their parents. The papers covered a variety of topics about the wetlands, with questions such as what bird species lived in them, and the threats to survivability.
Those questionnaires given to parents included questions regarding water use that were designed to test for knowledge about water shortages.
Results of the study showed that a child’s participation in wildlife club activities not only translated to their parents’ increased knowledge of the wetlands, it also helped the parents conserve water resources.
The researchers wondered whether the parents already had some wetland knowledge before the study took place. However, they eliminated that as a reason for assuming new water conservation practices by placing some children in a control group that studied nature in a different capacity.
“By providing evidence that shows children can cause their parents to take up more environmental practices, we hope that many more studies will attempt to look at how much knowledge is transferred under different scenarios, and which pieces of information are most likely to change household practices,” Damerell said.
Here in the Ozarks, the study gives added strength to the purpose of educational programs offered by Master Naturalists, Stream Team Members and other nature-based volunteer organizations.
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