|Fröhlich, G: Umsetzung verschiedener didaktischer Theorien im außerschulischen Unterricht: Potentiale und Grenzen des wiederentdeckten Lernorts Bauernhof, (2012)|
The alienation of the younger generation from food production and agricultural practices as well as the lack of knowledge concerning the close link between agriculture and the environment (Ernst & Theimer, 2011; Hubert, Frank, & Igo, 2000; Tal, 2008) is a general societal problem, which can and should be countered with education (Harms, King, & Francis, 2009). To impart these topics in the framework of sustainability education and to more firmly establish these topics in society, context-oriented and situated out-of-school learning at a farm seems to be a suitable means (Knobloch, Ball, & Allen, 2007). Context-oriented learning enables students to transfer the knowledge learned in school to their everyday lives, making the learning process more efficient (Bennett, Lubben, & Hogarth, 2007). In this study, we intentionally designed our agricultural and environmental education project to differ from already offered projects, which typically last several days and focus on edutainment, by ensuring our project addresses relevant school requirements such as curricular guidelines (content, life skill development, and short duration), teachers’ requirements (simple coordination and implementation), and finally, students’ requirements (student-centered, cooperative learning method). The aims of this study were to provide more detailed research on children’s connectedness with nature (Part A), to elicit more environmentally friendly consumer behavior through education (Part B), and to demonstrate that the implemented project efficiently transfers cognitive knowledge (Part C). Furthermore, to better evaluate the agricultural awareness of children and adolescents in a modern industrialized society, we gathered detailed information from students of different ages about their alternative conceptions regarding agriculture (Part D). This approach is essential for developing efficient educational projects in this field. In Part A, we show a negative correlation between age and connectedness with nature (prepubescent participants, 11 to 13 years of age) and also a positive correlation between cognitive abilities (indicator variable: academic level) and connectedness with nature. Educational studies (Davis, 2011; Schultz, 2002) have already shown a link between connectedness with nature and environmentally friendly consumer behavior. In Part B, however neither the participants’ connectedness with nature nor their newly gained knowledge contributed significantly to their intention of consuming in a more environmentally friendly way (mean age of participants: 11.5). In contrast, the correlations with the situational learning emotions, which were evaluated directly after the intervention, were found to be significant. Nevertheless, after seven weeks, the consumer behavior returned the level measured before the intervention. The transfer of content knowledge, which is seen as the focus of most educational projects, was successful for all students participating in Part C independent of the learning setting (classroom vs. farm). Splitting the knowledge up thematically, we found a significant increase in the girls’ knowledge about food in the midterm. Both genders achieved a significant increase agricultural knowledge in the short term as well as the midterm. Finally, in Part D, we ascertained students’ conceptions about a farmer’s duties; we questioned 5th and 6th graders as well as 10th graders. According to the qualitative content analysis of Mayring (2007), there were hardly any differences between the subsamples with respect to the inductive categories. However, the younger students focused on animal related categories, and the older ones focused on plant-related categories. Only a small number of the 10th graders mentioned ecological aspects, whereas these aspects were totally absent in the younger students’ group. In general, the participating students’ answers were very simple and stereotypic. Short, student-centered educational projects about agriculture and food are appropriate for instilling knowledge in the short term and midterm, for encouraging more environmentally friendly behavior, and for strengthening positive learning emotions. These learning emotions must be considered when evaluating posttests as these emotions seem to heavily influence the rating. To sum up, the educational project developed in our study is well-suited to teach the basics of agricultural and environmental education (the connections between food, agriculture, and the environment) in a student-appropriate way. During a student’s school career, the contents of the project should be periodically repeated and presented with increasing detail according to the student’s age and cognitive abilities in order to teach agricultural literacy (Frick, Kahler, & Miller, 1991) and to provide the student with a more realistic impression of modern agriculture.