Research Summary

Educational impact on the relationship of environmental knowledge and attitudes

Children with less exploitative attitudes towards the environment learn more about specific ways to protect the environment.

Environmental Education Research

The aim of this quasi-experimental study was to examine the relationships between the environmental attitudes and environmental knowledge of schoolchildren within the framework of an environmental intervention. The intervention consisted of a four consecutive day experience at an educational field center in Germany. The program included both indoor and outdoor activities focusing on issues relating to worldwide water problems and general- and individual-water protection approaches. Data was collected from 133 fourth graders from five schools located in or near Bavaria, Germany. Data was also collected from one class of 19 fourth graders with similar age and sex distribution that did not participate in the intervention.

A paper-and-pencil questionnaire was used to collect data. This questionnaire measured two areas of environmental values (utilization and preservation) and three knowledge dimensions (system knowledge, action-related knowledge, and effectiveness knowledge). Utilization, as it applies to this study, reflects the use and/or abuse of natural resources. Preservation reflects conservation and protection of the environment. The environmental values section of the questionnaire was based on the 2-MEV Model which has sound psychometric properties and has been widely and independently used by various research groups in different settings. The system knowledge questions on the assessment related to natural processes within ecosystems and the effect of human-nature interactions. The action-related questions addressed behavioral options suitable for dealing with environmental problems, while the effectiveness questions were about the specific impact and effectiveness of a particular action or option in comparison to another.

The questionnaire was administered three times: two weeks before students’ participation in the program, immediately after the end of the intervention program, and four to six weeks after the completion of the program. For the control group (the class not participating in the intervention), the assessment was administered only before and several weeks after the program.

Findings indicated that children who entered the program with a less exploitative utilization attitude learned more effectiveness knowledge than their counterparts. Or, because causal direction could not be established, findings might also indicate that children who engage in learning about the environment are less likely to be exploitative towards the environment in the future.