Although scholars and environmental experts are in agreement that environmental education plays a key role in assisting young people in comprehending the nature and complexity of environmental challenges and in developing their capacity to take appropriate action (Rickinson, 2001), there appears to be a disagreement on the best ways and methodologies that could be used to transfer such knowledge to students (Ceasar, 2012). For example, to date, there are no universally agreed methodologies that teachers can use to teach students about global warming in spite of the fact that the gradual rising of the world’s temperature represents a scale of threat greater than anything human beings have ever known in recent history (Karatekin, 2013; Kostova & Atasoy, 2008; Rickinson, 2001). This paper employs the appraisal theory to analyse an article on education and climate change, before relating the analysis to varied theorisations on how the global warming concept can be taught to students under the tenets of environmental literacy.
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Tabular Presentation of the Article
|“What children learn today will shape tomorrow’s world” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 1)|| |
|“Many African countries are already confronted with the threat of rapidly accelerating desertification, floods, and other hazards” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 2)|| |
|Education “helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour and helps them adapt to climate-related trends” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 2)|| |
|“Providing children with empowering and relevant education on disasters and climate change, in a child-friendly school environment can reduce their vulnerability to risk, while contributing to sustainable development for their communities” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 3)|| |
|“Teaching about climate change is a challenge for many teachers” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 4)|| |
|“The program focuses on learning by doing: sharing experiences or engaging in different events such as information campaigns and interaction with school teachers and/or parents” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 4)|| |
|“A good teacher creates a good learning environment for the students, where the students encounter the realities of their society, so they can act according to their choices” (HUMANA, 2014, para. 7)|| |
Discussion and Interrogation
The article raises pertinent questions on how environmental literacy should be undertaken to benefit young children in spite of the author’s conviction that environmental education assists young children to not only address the impact of global warming but also to shift their attitudes and behaviour in their quest to adapt to climate-related trends (HUMANA, 2014). Although the article argues that a good education program should focus on “learning by doing or sharing experiences”, this section evaluates other pedagogical approaches that can be used in developing environmentally literate citizens.
Environmental Literacy and Global Warming
Although environmental literacy has been described as a person’s basic consciousness, awareness, and comprehension of environmental challenges (Karatekin, 2013), it is evident that most teachers are not provided with the requisite training and tools to deliver environmental content to students (Al-Dajeh, 2012). A strand of existing literature acknowledges that the comprehension of the environment as text is increasingly important for a strong conceptualisation of environmental literacy, which recognises diverse social and cultural constructions of environments, incorporates functional and cultural materials and draws on diverse domains to investigate environmental challenges (Lugg & Hodgson, 2009), and that a strong and competent environmental literacy approach would contribute immeasurably to a more successful type of environmental education pedagogy (Robertson & Krugly-Smolska, 1997). On its part, global warming to a large extent denotes the rising global temperatures as a direct consequence of increased carbon dioxide emissions into the environment, leading to significant adverse outcomes including extreme weather, erratic rainfall patterns, spreading disease, as well as mass extinctions (Mohr, 2005; Tranter, 2013).
Theorisations and Interrogation
Research is consistent that the narrative inquiry technique has found wide usage in recent years, as teachers devise various pedagogical approaches to teach environmental education and also to gain environmental literacy. As posited by Hwang (2008), the “narrative inquiry technique is an established approach in education research primarily associated with the notion that people reveal their intentions, beliefs, desires, knowledge, and values through narratives” (p. 13). This technique is hinged on the key epistemological claim that students can view the teacher’s knowledge as ordered by stories, and that a teacher’s personal practical knowledge should be valued as a valid form of knowledge. However, the narrative inquiry technique acknowledges that the act of storytelling is not only socially and culturally situated, but must also be framed in and through interaction to achieve effectiveness (Hwang, 2008). This is in sharp contrast to yet another pedagogical approach known as constructivism, which asserts that students can learn about environmental education and reinforce their capacities in environmental literacy not only by emphasising active and collaborative learning but also through fitting new information together with what they already know (Zhao, 2003).
Marouli (2002) expounds on the cultural aspect of the environmental education framework by suggesting that perceptions are culturally situated and that the ecological degradation as presently constituted is a crisis in the value systems of our societies. This particular author introduces the concept of Multicultural Environmental Education (MEE), which “highlights the importance of reaching out to culturally diverse populations and of understanding, respecting, and utilising their perspectives in environmental education” (Marouli, 2002 p. 28). Using this lens, therefore, a good strategy for teaching children about global warming would be to base the curricula and programs on the direct and significant involvement of families and communities, particularly upon the realisation that children have different needs based on their cultural context. This view is consistent with the assertion held by Lugg and Hodgson (2009), which postulates that environmental literacy needs to be evaluated or assessed as a culturally embedded system. The cultural aspect of the environmental literacy pedagogy is further reinforced by Ceasar (2012), who argue that an environmental education which proceeds autonomously of an exploration of socio-cultural, aesthetic, personal and even illogical perspectives of the environment will prove inadequate to our needs and expectations.
In their study, Kostova and Atasoy (2008) acknowledge that some of the most important pedagogical techniques used to impart knowledge about the various challenges facing the environment include case studies and experimental observations. While observations of the environment assist in integrating knowledge from different subjects around environmental challenges and also in developing students’ and teachers’ collaboration, case studies are instrumental in assisting students to analyse the environmental challenges by playing roles, feeling empathy for the characters played, as well as trying to find solutions to the challenges posed. Drawing from this elaboration, it appears that teaching about global warming should not be a challenge anymore as teachers can always employ case studies and experimental observations to make learners understand the concept and its related challenges. As demonstrated by Kostova and Atasoy (2008), case studies are particularly effective in undertaking ecological investigations, discovering a multiplicity of cause-effect relationships pertaining to various environmental challenges, and developing the thinking capacities of students.
Lugg and Hodgson (2009) add other pedagogical components of strong and effective environmental literacy orientation by suggesting that it must be multidisciplinary in outlook and also incorporate the concept of care or affective learning. This implies that strong environmental literacy would oblige some level of experiential and/or participatory approaches to learning about the various environmental challenges (Lugg & Hodgson, 2009), and also ensure flexibility and adaptability in providing prospects for open-ended learning appropriate for an uncertain future (Ceasar, 2012). These pedagogical components are reinforced in the literature by Robertson and Krugly-Smolska (1997), who argue that “environmental education is a process that has cognitive, affective, conative (action), and skills objectives as well as an interdisciplinary nature” (p. 313). Consequently, teaching about global warming may no longer be problematic if teachers employ affective learning, which not only simulates a face-to-face environment but also assists in the application of a more experiential and participatory approach to pedagogy that recognises and attends to the emotional features of environmental challenges and public debate.
Lastly, Outdoor field courses have also been suggested as effective in teaching environmental education and reinforcing environmental literacy among students. As postulated by Rickinson (2001), this pedagogical approach entails students operating in small groups undertaking a combination of cognitively oriented environmental activities and emotionally grounded ones with the view to achieving an original encounter with biological and ecological themes through structured and participatory learning activities. In this respect, children being taught about global warming can take a trip to the field to locate and identify temperature changes through cognitive means, while at the same time engaging in an ecological exploration to discuss the effects of erratic rainfall patterns to the society. It is reported in the literature that such a pedagogical approach not only ensures significant gains in the students’ environmental knowledge but also facilitates changes in their attitudes toward human utilisation of nature as well as their willingness to plan and take action for the environment (Ceasar, 2012).
The article reviewed in this paper argues that a good education program on global warming should focus on learning by doing or sharing experiences; however, as has been demonstrated in the theorisations and interrogation section, there are a number of other pedagogical approaches which could be used to teach environmental education and reinforce environmental literacy. These include narrative enquiry, constructivism, multicultural environmental education, case studies, experimental observations, affective learning, as well as outdoor field courses. Overall, it is evident that the development of a strong conceptualisation of environmental literacy and the realisation that environmental issues such as global warming are socially and culturally situated will go a long way in increasing care for the world in a manner that modern models of environmental education alone cannot.
Al-Dajeh, H.I. (2012). Assessing environmental literacy of pre-vocational education teachers in Jordan. College Student Journal, 46(3), 492-507.
Ceasar, D. (2012). Our school at Blair grocery: A case study in promoting environmental action through critical environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education, 42(4), 209-226.
HUMANA. (2014). Education on climate change: Shaping tomorrow’s world. Web.
Hwang, S. (2008). Teachers’ stories of environmental education: Blurred boundaries of professionalism, identity and curriculum (Doctoral thesis, University of Bath). Web.
Karatekin, K. (2013). Comparison of environmental literacy levels of pre-service teachers. International Journal of Academic Research, 5(2), 5-14.
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