The headline said:
Classroom environmental education doesn’t change attitudes - new research
I thought this was a rather bold assertion. The opening sentence hedged a few bets:
Increasing understanding of conservation issues in schools doesn’t necessarily translate into attitude change, says new research from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath
This is less bold, but hardly new. The next said that:
conservation educational activities should be evaluated carefully to make sure they are achieving the desired objectives.
I was grateful for the insight.
The press release went on:
"... researchers from the University of Bath worked with conservation non-profit Maio Biodiversity Foundation (FMB) in Maio, Cape Verde, to assess the impacts of environmental education on schoolchildren from the island. The Cape Verde Islands, near the west coast of Africa, are powerhouses of evolution, home to an abundance of wildlife, including whales, turtles, sharks and shorebirds. However, unsustainable practices such as turtle poaching, off-road excursions through protected areas, and large scale litter dumping threatens to put local wildlife at risk. The researchers investigated the influence of a one-time classroom activity on children’s knowledge of local environmental issues, environmental attitudes and future aspirations.
The half-day activity, with 10 classes of 9–10-year-olds (4th grade) across eight schools (around 140 children), was focussed on the large wetland habitat of the island that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the largest breeding population of plover shorebirds that are genetically unique to the island.
The researchers talked to the children about the different species found locally, the environmental issues that threatened the wildlife and used a game activity to show the complex ecosystem of the area, helping the children understand how all the different parts were connected. They assessed the children’s conservation knowledge, and attitudes to science and the environment before and after the activities to see how it had changed.
They found that whilst the activity was successful in improving the children’s knowledge and awareness of environmental issues, it did not change their attitudes towards animals and other wildlife."
So, we have a half-day activity in which researchers talked to the children about the different species found locally, the environmental issues that threatened the wildlife, and a game activity to show the complex ecosystem of the area, helping the children understand how all the different parts were connected. Based on all this, they then confidently assessed the children’s conservation knowledge, and attitudes to science and the environment before and after the activities to see how it had changed. No one went outside.
One of the authors is quoted in the press release saying
"This study shows the importance of evaluating activities - we shouldn’t assume that increasing knowledge will help solve environmental issues. Instead we must carefully plan and assess activities to make sure they are achieving the desired objectives.”
The author plans more research to assess whether field trips are more impactful than classroom activities, or whether it simply distracts them.
I suppose I should read the paper, but with this sort of communication it's hardly inviting ...