THEY can make a difference !
In today’s education, a student is often taught the interactions of the natural world and the prospects of protecting and improving the environment. This is necessary as it hopes that the next generation is committed and capable in creating an ecologically sustainable future. However, this strategy does not address the serious environmental problems of today, and the parents and grandparents of today determine the effects of these problems.
Many environmental educators reckon the need to focus on adults to resolve the current environmental problems, even though there are formidable barriers to adult education. There is often very little time, or funding and resources to keep an adult as a captive audience, and as such, adult educational programs are unlikely to succeed at promoting widespread environmental action in the near future.
There is a potential solution.
How often have we seen ourselves, as children, influence our parent’s attitudes, behavior and knowledge? Are we not guilty of deciding what’s for dinner just because “today is my diet day”, or teaching our parents the intricacies of the Internet and Facebook? It is through influences such as these that identify us as the ‘ideal educators’ for the current generation to be the solution to the problems of today.
Early studies done on the prospects of intergenerational learning found that the information transfer between parent and child is often unreliable, and the information transferred is generally vague (Uzzel, 1994) when the involvement of the parent in a child’s learning is “superficial”. By “superficial”, the parent is often found to have spent very little time or effort with the child’s learning; with most parents involved only through the completion of schoolwork, and reading of pamphlet or booklets.
However, a more recent study by Porter, Dwyner, Cobern and Oliver (1997), showed that parent-child participation in environmental activities, such as recycling cans, can result in a greater change in their behavior and concerns for the environment in comparison to the earlier study. Asides from participating in environmental activities, other studies (Ballantyne et al, 1998) also found that student-parent communication had an impact on learning, and that student-parent discussions often yielded satisfactory results if the discussions were frequent (2-month period) and intensive (1.5 hours per session).
In short, to have our parents believe in being pro-environmental, one would need to either get them physically involved or to talk their ears off, which, ironically, is very similar to their behavior towards us.
Duvall. J., & Zint. M. (2007). A Review of Research on the Effectiveness of Environmental Education in Promoting Intergenerational Learning. The Journal of Environmental Education, 38,14-22.
Ballantyne, R., Connel, S., & Fien, J. (1998). Factors contributing to intergenerational communication regarding environmental programs: Preliminary research findings. Australian journal of Environmental Education, 14, 1-10
Uzzel, D. (1994). Chlildren as catalysts of environmental change (Final rep). London, England: European Commission Doirectorat General for Science Research and Development Joint Research Centre.