The importance of adults' conceptions of the environment for education

Year: 2003

Author: Petocz, Peter, Reid, Anna, Loughland, Tony

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Environmental education is an important strategy in achieving environmental improvement. Previously, we have analysed school children's conceptions of "environment" using a phenomenographic approach. An important qualitative difference was found between conceptions that treat the environment as an object and those that treat it as a relation. The findings reinforced other calls to locate environmental education beyond the formal school situation, using industry bodies and government departments. It seems that it may be more effective to take environmental education out of the formal school system and locate it in the community. In this paper, we report on the results of a survey of adults carried out by one such government department, the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, and describe the responses to the question "What does the environment mean to you personally?" Real change in thinking about the environment requires a creative approach to pedagogy, combining the conceptions of adults as well as the views of the students in their care. Environmental education needs an integration between formal and informal learning situations to effect change in people's thinking.