Raising awareness among young people about marine litter also means encouraging their families and local authorities to make concrete commitments
Raising awareness among children and young people about marine pollution also means raising awareness among their families and encouraging local authorities to make concrete commitments to tackle the problem. This is what emerges from an American study that has brought environmental education into the classroom.
Our oceans are overrun with litter - mostly plastic, but also aluminum cans and cigarette butts. This is a toxic mix for marine life: it is estimated that 100 million marine animals die each year from the litter floating in their natural habitat. Fortunately, however, something is changing. In fact, a recent study from the University of North Carolina found a way to raise public interest in the dangers of litter at sea and push the population towards a change of course - using children.
Many of the most revolutionary social movements in history have been led by young people, including those against climate change, the study authors say.
(Read: Bali's "plastic beaches" where walls of waste appear instead of sand)
In fact, the study involved very young pupils of the fourth and fifth year of primary schools, aged between 8 and 10 years. The results collected seem to support the idea that the commitment of children can actually cause changes in the behavior of the entire community, even if it is not clear how long these changes will continue.
To understand the influence youngsters can have on adult behavior, the researchers created an annual course that was held in schools. The program included a combination of classroom work, field research, creative work and class presentations, as well as the making of a final documentary on what the children discovered during their educational journey, and involved parents and families. This program was implemented in several American schools in 31 states over two school years.
We started by training the teachers involved in the project through workshops with experts and outdoor trips, who immediately said they were enthusiastic about the project and its challenges - it is in fact a new way of teaching. The innovative environmental awareness program was then brought into the classrooms, and the researchers observed the reactions of adults (primarily parents) who came into contact with the students involved in the project. We have seen how adults, after listening to the testimonies of children, have shown a greater interest in the issue of litter in the sea and have begun to support policies that combat marine pollution.
The table shows the growth of interest on the topic of marine litter and the activism towards policies to combat the problem after the student awareness program (Credits: frontiersin.org)
This study shows how young people are actually influential - he explains Kathryn Stevenson, of North Carolina State University. - Children play a fundamental and necessary role in political dynamics, especially in decisions concerning their future. We need to consider their perspectives more.
Fonte: Frontiers in Political Science
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