ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY: A CASE STUDY AMONG SIXTH GRADERS
Authors: Sirpa Kärkkäinen, Laura Haukipuro, Anna-Maija Rummukainen, Tuula Keinonen, Heikki Simola
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The purpose of this study was to clarify sixth graders’ (aged 12-13, N=87) perceptions about environmental problems and environmental responsibility. Four classes from two Finnish primary schools participated in the study. In the first case (n=62) which focused more on perceptions about environmental problems, the data was collected using a questionnaire. It was found that sixth graders perceived the most important environmental problems as being littering, pollution, climate change, and how much we waste. Pupils also highlighted environmental responsibility. Their answers revealed a wide range of ways for protecting the environment such as recycling, sorting, and favoring the use of environmentally cleaner vehicles. The second case more closely examined responsibility for the environment; with the aid of a picture/image to stimulate their perceptions, pupils were able to recognize environmental problems. The data comprised of writings in connection with the image (n=25) and interviews (n=12). Pupils were categorized into four groups according to their perceptions about responsibility: environmental citizens, daily active persons, free riders and disinterested persons. Environmentally responsible behavior in sixth graders was most significantly influenced by the home, being dependent upon which action model of sorting and recycling was in use there. Both data collection methods supported each other, providing similar results. The sixth graders were not only well aware of environmental problems, they were also committed to take the environment into account and act in an environmentally friendly way. In conclusion, sixth graders’ environmental education could include discussion about actions on behalf of the environment, but additional sensitization towards the environment is still needed for some pupils.