Child-orientated environmental education influences adult knowledge and household behaviour
Children’s environmental education influences parental knowledge and household environmental behavior
The ultimate goal of environmental education is environmentally responsible behavior, a causal pathway that is complex, especially when considering environmental education for children that is intended to also influence parental behavior. The purpose of this study, conducted on the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, was to use a controlled trial to “quantify the effect of receiving education on wetland ecology and conservation on children’s environmental knowledge; quantify differences in knowledge between parents whose children had or had not received wetland education; and assess whether reported water conservation behavior differed between households with children who had or had not studied wetlands.”
The study used the wildlife clubs present in every school on the Seychelles as the conduit for the environmental education. Wetlands were chosen as the environmental topic because it is locally significant yet there was the expectation of low overall baseline awareness of the topic, and, significant for the study design, some wildlife clubs had conducted a wetlands module in the year preceding the study. A total of 15 wildlife clubs at primary and secondary schools participated in the study, seven of which had conducted wetlands education in the past year and eight of which had not conducted any wetlands education during the period of inquiry. This design created four distinct study populations—the children who had received wetlands education and their parents as well as the control group of children that did not receive this education and their parents. Parallel questionnaires were developed for the children and their parents, both of which included demographic questions as well as questions designed to measure several aspects of wetland knowledge and related conservation behavior. The students completed their surveys in class and took the parent survey home for completion. One hundred and thirty-seven (137) questionnaires (85%) were completed sufficiently for analysis, 60 of which were from the wetland group and 77 from the control group.
The study results suggest that the environmental knowledge of the participating students was positively influenced by the environmental education provided the wildlife clubs; the duration of participation in the wildlife club; and, for the topic of wetlands, awareness of local rivers. These results are believed to be linked to the practical, hands-on, field-based experiences offered by the wildlife club outside of learning that occurs in school. The study results suggest that the environmental knowledge of the parents was positively influenced by their child’s participation in the wildlife club wetland education; greater age; higher levels of education; and longer duration living in the same community. In this particular study, “both increased age and longer community residence increase the chance that they experienced the tradition of community managed freshwater resources” that was replaced by public utility company management in more recent years. Eco-centric household water use was shown to be positively influenced by children’s participation in the wetlands education at the wildlife club; higher combined attendance at the wildlife club (duration and/or multiple children); and the adult’s knowledge of freshwater systems and engagement with related activities in their community.
This study offers valuable quantitative data that support the potential for a causal link from children’s environmental education to the desired environmental behavior change within their household. Further, “by providing evidence of child to parent transfer of education-dependent knowledge, this study suggests that children can be ‘effective agents’ for the environment” at least within their immediate social structures.
Damerell, P., Howe, C., Milner-Gulland, E.J., (2013). Child-orientated environmental education influences adult knowledge and household behaviour. Environmental Research Letters, 8(1),