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How to sustainably increase students' willingness to protect pollinators

Summary


Direct interaction vs. webcam viewing of bees results in similar attitudes toward protecting bees, but direct interaction results in decreased fear in the short-term and increased well-being

This study investigated the effectiveness of two different environmental education approaches. One approach involved encountering real bees at a beehive; the other approach used a remote online beehive. The goal of each approach was to increase an appreciation of bees and decrease fear of bees.

This study was based on previous research indicating that such negative emotions as fear and disgust can interfere with a willingness to protect certain species and that encounters with living animals can positively influence students’ attitudes towards unpopular animals. This study builds on that research by addressing the question of whether or not seeing living bees via eLearning has the same impact on emotions and attitudes as encountering living bees first hand.

A total of 354 seventh and eighth grade students from four different schools in Bavaria, Germany participated in this study. The study compared two intervention groups: one group encountered living bees at a local beehive close to school; the other group used an interactive online portal linked to a beehive. In addition to observing bees, both groups of students also completed a related educational program focusing on (1) affective elements to foster positive emotions towards bees and to reduce perceived danger, and (2) cognitive elements to help students understand ecological interrelations and to strengthen their interest in honeybees. All participants completed a pre-test one to two weeks before the program, a post-test immediately after the program, and a retention test six to nine weeks later. Several assessment instruments were embedded in the survey used for these tests. One instrument measured specific aspects of attitudes towards bees (interest, willingness to protect, perceived danger). Another instrument (used only immediately after the program) monitored situational learning emotions (situational interest, well-being, and boredom).

Results indicated that students’ interest in bees and their willingness to protect bees as pollinators changed significantly after participating in the program and that this interest persisted over time. This finding applied to both groups. There was a difference, however, between the groups in the short-term decrease in perceived danger: students who had contact with the living animals significantly decreased their perceived danger compared to the students in the eLearning program. There were also significant differences between the two groups regarding situational emotions: the well-being of students who had contact with living animals was significantly higher and boredom was significant lower than students in the eLearning group. Situational interest was high in both groups, with no significant difference between the groups.

These findings suggest that attitudes towards bees can be positively supported by educational interventions, and that both direct and remote observations of living bees can be effective in reducing perceived dangers and increasing a willingness to protect bees as pollinators. Because there were additional benefits to direct versus remote observations, the importance of offering opportunities for students to encounter living animals inside and outside of the classroom should be recognized.

Citation

Schonfelder, M.L., Bogner, F.X., (2017). How to sustainably increase students' willingness to protect pollinators. Environmental Education Research

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