Friday, August 12, 2011

The failure of environmental education...

Read it and weep:

Citation: Ballouard J-M, Brischoux F, Bonnet X (2011) Children Prioritize Virtual Exotic Biodiversity over Local Biodiversity. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23152. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023152

Children Prioritize Virtual Exotic Biodiversity over Local Biodiversity
Jean-Marie Ballouard1,2*, Franc¸ois Brischoux3, Xavier Bonnet1
1 Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chize´ , CNRS-UPR 1934, Villiers en Bois, France, 2 Centre de Recherche et de Conservation des Che´loniens, SOPTOM, le Village des tortues, Gonfaron, France, 3 Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States of America

Environmental education is essential to stem current dramatic biodiversity loss, and childhood is considered as the key period for developing awareness and positive attitudes toward nature. Children are strongly influenced by the media, notably the internet, about biodiversity and conservation issues. However, most media focus on a few iconic, appealing, and usually exotic species. In addition, virtual activities are replacing field experiences. This situation may curb children knowledge and concerns about local biodiversity. Focusing our analyses on local versus exotic species, we examined the level of knowledge and the level of diversity of the animals that French schoolchildren are willing to protect, and whether these perceptions are mainly guided by information available in the internet. For that, we collected and compared two complementary data sets: 1) a questionnaire was administered to schoolchildren to assess their knowledge and consideration to protect animals, 2) an internet content analysis (i.e. Google searching sessions using keywords) was performed to assess which animals are themost often represented. Our results suggest that the knowledge of children and their consideration to protect animal are mainly limited to internet contents, represented by a few exotic and charismatic species. The identification rate of local animals by schoolchildren was meager, suggesting a worrying disconnection from their local environment. Schoolchildren were more prone to protect ‘‘virtual’’ (unseen, exotic) rather than local animal species. Our results reinforce the message that environmental education must also focus on outdoor activities to develop conservation consciousness and concerns about local biodiversity.

1 comment:

  1. I just wrote about this very same paper on my blog ( One thing I noticed was that the kids DID seem to know what conservation was, they DID know some species identities, and they DID correctly name some species that needed help. I'm not sure I could have done all 3 of those things when I was only 7-11 years old, and look at me now! Hopefully, as the kids get older, they'll learn about conservation more broadly and find out more about local issues/species--just in time to sign petitions and vote on laws, etc. At least, that's the optimistic view that I'm taking!