A recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University shows that participating in an environmental education program can motivate children of different language groups to act responsibly about the environment.
For the study, researchers surveyed 644 elementary school students about their motivation to act in ways that are good for the environment — such as using reusable water bottles at home or refusing plastic straws in restaurants — before and after participation. in environmental education programs.
Developed by the Duke University Marine Laboratory, the program focuses on litter in the oceans and other waterways, including lessons on how long different types of litter remain in waterways, trash cleanup, and hands-on surveys of ocean-related challenges with debris. After the program, students scored higher on average on surveys that measure their motivation to take action for the environment. Bilingual or multilingual students made greater progress on average than students who primarily spoke English at home — a finding the researchers say is promising and needs further investigation.
“What we saw was that, overall, the programs seemed to encourage everyone to take environmental action, but when we dug deeper, much of the program’s effects could be explained by the responses of linguistically diverse children,” the study said. said co-author Katherine Stevenson, associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. “This is encouraging, as linguistically diverse children make up a growing proportion of the U.S. population, and we hope our program will resonate with all. It also highlights how young people with diverse backgrounds can make important contribution. It also got us wondering: Are the students taking these lessons home?”
The research is part of a series of studies examining how environmental education affects children, their families and communities. In a previous study, researchers found that parents’ concerns about climate change increased after their children were educated. In another study, they found that the views of local leaders and voters shifted after watching children’s speeches on environmental issues.
“We’ve always been interested in the mechanisms of intergenerational learning,” Stevenson said. “We see that this program can affect all children involved, but this suggests that it may have different effects on children who speak more than one language. For children who act as home translators, they may be better at translating on many levels — Linguistically or culturally — we wondered how that might affect intergenerational knowledge of the environment.”