Mexican children´s drawings and written text of the landscape they want to conserve - what do their voices express

Year: 2013

Author: Yli-Panula, Eija, Ojansuu, Outi, Tyynismaa, Maarit

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purposeof this study was to investigate what children want to tell with their "voices" about the landscape (environment) they want to conserve. In this study their voices - the message - is expressed in their drawings and written text. Every child has one´s own direct experiences about the surrounding environment, which can be both pleasant and unpleasant, and also experiences about distant environments they have become familiar with, e.g. via media. These direct, indirect or vicarious experiences of the environment have an influence on children´s relation to the environment. Via these own unique experiences the child values the environment. These values and children´s environmental relationship are interpreted as children´s voices in this study.
Methods: This is a qualitative study based on the Mexican children´s (n=440, age 7-12 years) drawings about the environment they want to conserve. The drawings and written text were analysed using a theory and content-based analysis. All the drawings were analysed according to the three landscape categories; nature, built, man present. The written text of the children in the 5th and 6th grades (n=152) was further analysed.
Results:Most of the drawings represented nature without man made things and the number of the nature landscapes increased with increasing age. Drawn landscapes with man present as well as built environment included also plenty of nature elements, like water, mountains, forest, plants and animals. All the children had a nature-centred positive relation to the environment. The message of their drawings - their voices - was to retain the nature. In the written text children's thoughts were expressed under six different themes: worry, responsibility, aesthetic, cause-consequence, attachment and benefit; decreasing frequency, in this order. These themes described why the landscape should be retained and how the study subjects relate to the environment. The themes were studied in relation to the Kellert's categories of environmental values (1996) in relation to the environment. According to this classification Mexican children expressed humanistic (taking care, responsibility and attachment of the nature), moralistic (good and bad environment), utilitarian (benefit) and aesthetic values in relation to the drawn environment. Also cause-consequence relationships were presented but not yet at an ecological or scientific level.
Conclusion:This study shows that these Mexican children have good standpoints to become responsible citizens taking care of the environment. In all the children's voices can be summarized quoting one of them: "Nature is something we can´t replace".