Birds in the playground: Evaluating the effectiveness of an urban environmental education project in enhancing school children’s awareness, knowledge and attitudes towards local wildlife

Rachel White, Katie Eberstein, Dawn Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Children nowadays, particularly in urban areas, are more disconnected from nature than ever before, leading to a large-scale “extinction of experience” with the natural world. Yet there are many potential benefits from children interacting with nature first-hand, including via outdoor learning opportunities. Urban environmental education programmes typically aim to increase awareness and knowledge of local biodiversity and to promote positive attitudes and behaviour towards the environment. However, limited research has been conducted evaluating to what extent these interventions achieve their goals. Here, we explore and assess the influence of a six-week bird-feeding and monitoring project conducted within school grounds (“Bird Buddies”) on individual awareness, knowledge and attitudes towards birds by primary school children. This initiative was conducted across eight (sub-)urban primary schools within Brighton and Hove (UK), with 220 participating children (aged 7 to 10). Via pre- and post-project questionnaires, we found evidence for enhanced awareness of local biodiversity, alongside significant gains in both bird identification knowledge and attitudes, which were greatest for children with little prior exposure to nature. Many children expressed a keenness to continue improving the environmental value of their school grounds and to apply elements of the project at home. Student project evaluation scores were consistently positive. Mirroring this, participating teachers endorsed the project as a positive learning experience for their students. One year after the project, several schools were continuing to feed and watch birds. Collectively, the findings from this study highlight the multiple benefits that can be derived from engagement with a relatively short outdoor environmental activity. We therefore believe that such interventions, if repeated locally/longer term, could enhance children’s experience with nature in urban settings with combined positive environmental impact.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2018

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playground
environmental education
school
biodiversity
primary school
experience
schoolchild
learning
environmental impact
urban area
student
monitoring
questionnaire
teacher
evaluation
evidence
Values

Bibliographical note

© 2018 White et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Cite this

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title = "Birds in the playground: Evaluating the effectiveness of an urban environmental education project in enhancing school children’s awareness, knowledge and attitudes towards local wildlife",
abstract = "Children nowadays, particularly in urban areas, are more disconnected from nature than ever before, leading to a large-scale “extinction of experience” with the natural world. Yet there are many potential benefits from children interacting with nature first-hand, including via outdoor learning opportunities. Urban environmental education programmes typically aim to increase awareness and knowledge of local biodiversity and to promote positive attitudes and behaviour towards the environment. However, limited research has been conducted evaluating to what extent these interventions achieve their goals. Here, we explore and assess the influence of a six-week bird-feeding and monitoring project conducted within school grounds (“Bird Buddies”) on individual awareness, knowledge and attitudes towards birds by primary school children. This initiative was conducted across eight (sub-)urban primary schools within Brighton and Hove (UK), with 220 participating children (aged 7 to 10). Via pre- and post-project questionnaires, we found evidence for enhanced awareness of local biodiversity, alongside significant gains in both bird identification knowledge and attitudes, which were greatest for children with little prior exposure to nature. Many children expressed a keenness to continue improving the environmental value of their school grounds and to apply elements of the project at home. Student project evaluation scores were consistently positive. Mirroring this, participating teachers endorsed the project as a positive learning experience for their students. One year after the project, several schools were continuing to feed and watch birds. Collectively, the findings from this study highlight the multiple benefits that can be derived from engagement with a relatively short outdoor environmental activity. We therefore believe that such interventions, if repeated locally/longer term, could enhance children’s experience with nature in urban settings with combined positive environmental impact.",
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