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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department of Biology Education - Prof. Dr. Franz X. Bogner

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Sellmann, D: Umweltbildung zum Thema Klimawandel im botanischen Garten: Wissen, Einstellungen und Konzepte von Jugendlichen, (2012)
Climate change is one of the most important socio-scientific issues of our time (Klosterman & Sadler, 2010) and certainly also one of the greatest threats for our ecosystems (Fischlin et al., 2007). Accordingly, there is great concern in the scientific community as well as in the public. Climate change is a very complex phenomenon with diverse consequences on a local and global scale. This and the vast, sometimes incorrect, information that (not only) adolescents are confronted with (Weingart, Engels, & Pansegrau, 2000), lead to uncertainties (Fortner et al., 2000) and make it even more difficult to understand. Surveys show that adolescents are willing to act climatefriendly but at the same time feel helpless facing the global character of climate change (Emnid, 2009; forsa, 2009). Inconsistent information leads to the formation of conceptions on climate change that are not in line with scientific conceptions (e. g. (Andersson & Wallin, 2000; Lombardi & Sinatra, 2010; Shepardson, Niyogi, Choi, & Charusombat, 2009). There is a need for communicating the issue of climate change in such a way that common held conceptions and scientific conceptions are meaningfully combined. Additionally, options for possible climate-friendly actions should be imparted to benefit from the existent willingness to act (Bord, O'Connor, & Fisher, 2000). In the present study, climate change education is based on the aims of environmental education: enhancing of environmental knowledge as well as fostering environmental attitudes and connectedness with nature (Stern, Powell, & Ardoin, 2008). To achieve these aims, out-of-school learning settings offer ideal conditions as they allow authentic, first-hand nature experiences, thus not only addressing cognitive but also affective and hands-on domains. This study was deliberately conducted at a botanical garden as it presents plant species from nearly all of the world’s ecosystems. Thereby, it provides children and adolescents with a “window to the botanical world” which facilitates the illustration of global consequences of climate change. The four described studies (1) highlight the cognitive knowledge and conceptions on climate change of adolescents between 14 and 19 years of age and (2) describe their connectedness with nature and environmental attitudes as well as the impact of participation in an especially designed environmental education programme in a botanical garden on these factors. Furthermore, implications for designing and conducting similar programmes are given. Study A refers to the changes of students’ conceptions as a function of the design of the educational material provided. By addressing common alternative conceptions a higher rate of changes towards scientific conceptions could be achieved. Study B describes adolescents’ conceptions concerning climate change and the influence of an environmental education programme on their changes towards scientific conceptions. In particular, a method to reveal such conceptions is introduced that is easily applicable in daily school life. Study C shows adolescents’ knowledge on climate change directly after and four to six weeks after programme participation as to be significantly higher than before participation. In study D enhanced environmental attitudes and connectedness with nature could be measured directly after programme participation. This effect was persistent over a period of four to six weeks only for the factor Utilization of nature, the degree of connectedness with nature and the preservational attitudes decreased to the level observed before participation. This indicates the need for a repeated intervention. In summary, short-term environmental education programmes may indeed effectively and persistently enhance students’ knowledge. This is also true for utilitarian preferences but not for connectedness with nature and preservational preferences; the latter ones showed only a positive short-term change. A longer programme duration as well as repeated nature experiences could improve and stabilize these outcomes. Furthermore, the advantage of integrating common alternative conceptions could be shown; directly addressing these conceptions during instruction may positively affect effectiveness. Future similar instructions should consider these aspects.
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