School children's drawings of landscapes they would like conserve - what do the drawings reflect of their environmental conceptions

Year: 2012

Author: Yli-Panula, Eija, Grönlund, Elisabeth

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Purpose of this study comprises two parts. Firstly, a review of studies in Finland, Russia, Sweden and Nepal is presented, based on the idea of the kind of landscape/environment pupils want to conserve. Secondly, an empirical research on the landscape, pupils of the Finnish schools in Australia want to retain, and on pupils´ conceptions of the environment is shown. The background hypotheses of this study include the idea that the landscape, which somebody would like to conserve, is important and valuable to her or him, and that all pupils have a differing conception about their environment depending on their age and experiences.

Methods:  This is a qualitative study, with phenomenographical features, comprising drawings as the main research material.  Interviews have partly been used.

Results: The review analyses show, that three types of landscapes (social, built and nature) were drawn. The Russian pupils, significantly more often than Finnish ones, drew nature in all age groups. The older the Finnish pupils were the more nature landscapes were present. Social landscape was the most common in the drawings of the youngest pupils. Among 11-12 year old pupils man was present in less than half of the Finnish and in about one out of ten of the Russian drawings. The built environment, drawn more often by the Finnish than the Russian pupils, was the second most common. Younger pupils drew animals more often than the older ones, the Russian more often than the Finnish.  The landscape elements identified were: water, meadow/field, forest, (northern) mountain, road/street, yard, cemetery and atomistic. The environment was seen as an object (a place) by most Finnish pupils, one fourth drew a relationship with nature (a relational focus). This aspect was not studied in drawings by Russian, Swedish or Nepalese pupils.

In the Australian study most of the landscapes represented water and yard environment, however landscapes representing mountain, forest (Australian and northern boreal), street, meadow and field were also present. The pupils' conceptions of the environment seem to reflect that the environment is not merely a place, but rather a site where man is present with the environment bearing an aesthetic value, too. In this study the pupils´ conceptions of the environment were analyzed from the drawings by categories of Loughland and others (2002).

Conclusion: These results are of value to e.g. educators when teaching sustainable development or national authorities when planning the environmental education curriculum.