30 SES 12 B, Art and aesthetics in ESE
In an era of urgent need to preserve the environment, we need to change our manner of doing so. People tend to tie environmental protection with limitations placed in an effort to prevent deterioration of ecological systems, thus making change and saving the earth a frightening issue. What we are missing is a vision of creating a better world, and the way to create this vision is by daring to dream and imagining a sustainable world which is good to live in. We will never achieve a sustainable world if we cannot imagine what it would look like. Thus, the road to implementation of environmental education and creation of citizens who are aware, involved and committed to the environment must begin by defining a vision, unlike the present approach which focuses on instilling fear and emphasizing that if we do not change our ways a catastrophe will take place. The possibility of dreaming about the world we wish to live in and creating a vision must become central in imparting the values of sustainability in schools, leading us towards the construction of that world. Creating a vision must be fear-free, encouraging a positive outlook regarding the environment, thus allowing the children to use their ability to dream and imagine (Meadows, 2015).
There is a variety of studies dealing with the future world as perceived by the students. One example is a study examining Finnish students’ perceptions of the ideal school through stories, which points at the students’ need for physical activity, learning promoting their well-being and opportunities to dream. The study demonstrates that the students, as future decision-makers, are aware of the potential of future schools and the ways of promoting their own learning (Kangas, 2010). Another study using drawings to examine the children’s environmental perceptions found that they exhibited deep environmental concerns. More than half the children were pessimistic regarding the earth’s future, thinking that in 50 years’ time it will be in worse condition than it is today. Children possess a natural vision and can articulate clearly what the world should look like with no war, pollution, cruelty or hungry children. It should have music, fun, beauty and nature (Barraza, 1999). As mentioned earlier, vision leads the way towards its implementation, and the road to vision construction begins with the imagination. The present study, which analyzes children’s drawings, examines how children imagine an ideal environmental school, regarding the children’s drawings as an unconventional expression of their vision. The purpose of the study was to examine what the children feel an ideal environmental school should look like, what it should have and what activities it should include. Thus, the research question was: What is children’s perception of the ideal environmental school according to their drawings?
Drawings as a research tool Drawings represent individual styles, color choice, use of symbols and specific content. Therefore, drawings may highlight individual viewpoints more than conversation or writing which may generate less detailed or more generic descriptions of the same objects or scenes. Visual research using drawing methods seems to be particularly sensitive to individual voices and authenticity (Eldén, 2013). As a result, throughout history scholars have used drawings as a research tool for understanding different aspects of environmental education (Kalvaitis & Monhardt, 2012), science education (Ben-Zvi-Assaraf & Orion, 2010) and psychology research (Eldén, 2013). While children’s drawings have been used for over a century in psychology research, in environmental education and science education they have only been used in the last four decades (Chambers, 1983). Moreover, in psychology research scholars use drawings in clinical settings to analyze social/emotional, physical and intellectual development of individuals (Farokhi & Hashemi, 2011); unlike their use in environmental education which tests knowledge, perceptions and relationships among environmental components. The use of drawings as a research tool is common in all ages (Chambers, 1983; Kalvaitis & Monhardt, 2012). Kalvaitis & Monhardt (2012) have used elementary students’ drawings to understand children’s relationships with nature. Data collection and analysis In our study we used qualitative approach for analysis using the drawings of 120 third grade and sixth grade students in an Israeli elementary school, who drew their idea of an ideal environmental school. Of the 120 drawings we selected for analysis 37 which included rich, varied ideas. In addition, five of the 120 students were selected based on their verbal abilities and the variety of ideas regarding the ideal environmental school their drawings had presented and asked to explain what they had drawn. The drawings were analyzed based on criteria that characterize the micro (Derbentseva et al., 2007) and the macro approaches (Hay, 2007). According to the micro approach to the drawing analysis, we examined the components of the ideal environmental school. Regarding the macro approach, we considered the general ideas emerging from the drawing (Hay, 2007), the drawing explanations, and the interviews. The data were analyzed through a comparison between the data types - interviews and drawings, thus identifying common patterns.
The data analysis resulted in four categories characterizing the ideal environmental school: (a) the school structure – space, vegetation and unique outdoors classrooms; (b) outdoor learning and trips; (c) positive atmosphere and feelings as well as teachers’ personal relationships with students; (d) the school’s content knowledge areas and values. Based on these four categories we constructed a model of the ideal environmental school as perceived by the students, including three spaces: a physical space, a cognitive space and an emotional space. The physical and emotional spaces are similar to the findings of a Finnish study of the ideal school (Kangas, 2010). Unlike that study where the students wanted elements different from those in their school, the vision of the participants in our study was based on the characteristics of their school. The findings show that the school they attend presents a model of the ideal environmental school for its students, and that the environmental activity and learning in the school is meaningful for them, creating comprehension and action within the environmental context. The study has a practical contribution by showing how the school presents an educational model of environmental education for its students; a research-based contribution in that the children’s drawings allowed us to learn about different ideas in the context of an ideal environmental school; and a methodological contribution by utilizing a unique research tool examining the topic of an ideal environmental school through use of drawings. Further research on the topic may be able to expand the picture of ideal environmental schools around the world.
Barraza, L. (1999). Children’s Drawings About the Environment. Environmental Education Research, 5(1), 49–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/1350462990050103 Ben-Zvi-Assaraf, O., & Orion, N. (2010). Four case studies, six years later: Developing system thinking skills in junior high school and sustaining them over time. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(10), 1253–1280. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20383 Chambers, D. W. (1983). Stereotypic images of the scientist: The draw-a-scientist test. Science Education, 67(2), 255–265. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.3730670213 Derbentseva, N., Safayeni, F., & Cañas, A. (2007). Concept maps: Experiments on dynamic thinking. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(3), 448-465. Eldén, S. (2013). Inviting the messy: Drawing methods and “children’s voices.” Childhood, 20(1), 66–81. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568212447243 Farokhi, M., & Hashemi, M. (2011). The analysis of children’s drawings: Social, emotional, physical, and psychological aspects. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 2219–2224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.10.433 Hay, D. B. (2007). Using concept maps to measure deep, surface and non-learning outcomes. Studies in Higher Education, 32(1), 39–57. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070601099432 Kalvaitis, D., & Monhardt, R. M. (2012). The architecture of children’s relationships with nature: a phenomenographic investigation seen through drawings and written narratives of elementary students. Environmental Education Research, 18(2), 209–227. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2011.598227 Kangas, M. (2010). Finnish children’s views on the ideal school and learning environment. Learning Environments Research, 13(3), 205–223. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-010-9075-6 Meadows, D. (2005). Envisioning a sustainable world. Paper presented at the Third Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics, San Jose, Costa Rica.
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