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Abstract

In this study, the author investigated the influence of the educational program Nature on the Way to School on children's everyday perception of species. More than 4,000 children (8–16 years old) from 248 classes in Switzerland participated in the study. Possible influences of the program were evaluated with the help of pretest and posttest questionnaires completed by test-group and control-group teachers and students. Participation in the program significantly increased the number and diversity of species that children noticed on the way to school; the positive effects increased with the time spent on the program. The program had a similar positive effect on both younger and older children and on girls and boys.
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Note: This is the accepted version of the manuscript
The influence of an educational program on children’s perception of
biodiversity
Petra Lindemann-Matthies
Abstract
This study investigated the influence of the educational program ‘Nature on the way to
school’ on children’s everyday-life perception of species. More than 4,000 children (8–16
years old) from 248 classes in Switzerland participated in the study. Possible influences of the
program were evaluated with the help of questionnaires using a pretest/posttest-design with a
test group and a control group. Participation in the program significantly increased the
number and diversity of species that children noticed on the way to school, and the positive
effects increased with the time spent on the program. The program had a similar positive
effect on both younger and older children and on boys and girls.
Introduction
There is increasing concern about the state of the environment world-wide (Botkin & Keller,
1995; Robinson, 1993). One major focus of this concern is the issue of biodiversity (see
overview in Heywood, 1995). The accelerating decline in biodiversity due to human activities
is one of the most urgent environmental issues (Meffe & Carroll, 1994; Wilson, 1992). In
order to safeguard the richness of life forms globally, it is essential to raise public awareness
of the need to preserve biological diversity (UNESCO, 1993; WRI & IUCN/UNEP, 1992).
However, biodiversity has only recently become an important focus of scientific research and
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political discussion (Wilson & Peter, 1988). It is therefore also a relatively new issue in
educational research and formal education (Chipeniuk, 1995; Crisci, McInerney, &
McWethy, 1993; Mayer, 1992).
Concerning the loss of biodiversity, it has been argued that people will only miss species if
they already know and have developed a relationship with them (Weilbacher, 1993). The
study of organisms and their diversity used to be a focus of traditional biology education, but,
in recent decades, biology education has become increasingly dominated by physiology,
molecular biology, and genetics (Mayer, 1993; Yore & Boyer, 1997). The biodiversity crisis
has generated renewed interest in organismic biology and has evoked demands for greater
emphasis on the study of organisms and their diversity in education (Mallow, 1994).
However, students should not be passive recipients of meaningless names and information as
in classic taxonomy education (Crisci, McInerney, & McWethy, 1993). In a German survey,
most experts thought that biodiversity education should be an active process, in which
students observe and investigate plants and animals in their immediate environment, become
intimate with local species, and finally understand and value biodiversity (Mayer, 1992).
Recently, educational programs and materials have been developed in European countries to
foster an understanding of biodiversity (Crisci, McInerney, & McWethy, 1993; Cuche &
Gigon, 1996; Nagel, 1997; SBN, 1995). However, suitable evaluations are needed to assess
the effectiveness of programs (Bennett, 1988; Leeming, Dwyer, Porter, & Cobern, 1993;
Stokking, van Zoelen, van Aert, & Young, 1995). At present, hardly anything is known about
the outcomes of modern biodiversity education. Previous studies have concentrated on the
effects of environmental education on students’ environmental knowledge, attitudes, and
behavior (see reviews in Hines, Hungerford, & Tomera, 1986-87; Langeheine & Lehmann,
1986; Leeming, Dwyer, Porter, & Cobern, 1993; Leeming, Dwyer, Porter, Cobern, & Oliver,
1997). Few studies have investigated the effect of taxonomy education on children’s
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knowledge of species. Taxonomy education in school can increase children’s knowledge of
plants and animals (Pfligersdorffer, 1984; Rexer & Birkel, 1986; Scherf, 1985; Starosta,
1990; see also Killermann, 1996), and, as one study indicates, protective attitudes towards
species (Scherf, 1985). In an Austrian study, Pfligersdorffer (1984) showed that seventh
graders who took part in a half-day excursion to a forest and investigated organisms in their
natural environment learned more about forest organisms than students who received a
theoretical two hour classroom instruction on the same topic. Similar results were found in a
German study in which sixth graders received four lessons on aquatic species either at a pond
or in the classroom (Starosta, 1990). In both studies students with poor learning abilities in
particular profited from the field trips (Pfligersdorffer, 1984; Starosta, 1990; see also Rexer &
Birkel, 1986). In another German study with fourth graders a three-hour classroom instruction
about local ruderal plants combined with a field trip was more effective than a classroom
instruction only (Scherf, 1985). However, all these studies included only few classes and did
not compare different age groups.
Educational programs are usually designed for a certain type of school (e.g. primary or
secondary school) and not for particular class levels. However, to improve the suitability of
programs, it is important to know whether children of different ages benefit to a similar
degree from a program (Leeming, Dwyer, Porter, & Cobern, 1993). Studies undertaken in
Germany have found that children’s general interest in biology increases until the beginning
of adolescence and then declines strongly between the age of twelve and fifteen (Löwe,
1992). A similar trend was found in a ten year longitudinal study in the United States
(Simpson & Oliver, 1990). Within the large population of participants in that study (4,500
students from grade 6–10), positive attitudes toward science as well as motivation to achieve
in science steadily declined with age. Educational programs might therefore not be equally
effective for students of different ages.
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The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of an educational program called
‘Nature on the way to school’ on the everyday-life perception of species and their diversity by
children of different ages. More than 4,000 children from 248 classes of different grades
participated in the study, which was part of a large project on children’s cognition of
biodiversity in Switzerland (Lindemann-Matthies, 1999). The main questions explored by the
study were: (1) Did the educational program increase the perception of species by Swiss
children, and, if so, which species were additionally noticed by the children? (2) Did the
program lead to an acquaintance with species previously unknown to the children? (3) Was
the effect of the program related to the time spent on the program? (4) Did the age and sex of
the children influence the effect of the program?
Method
The educational program
The program ‘Nature on the way to school’ was developed by the Swiss conservation
organization ‘Pro Natura’ as an educational supplement for primary schools. The main aims
of the program were the promotion of opportunities for children to experience nature at first
hand on the way to school, the promotion of children’s awareness of nature in their everyday
lives, and the promotion of interest in and tolerance for local species. ‘Pro Natura’ provided a
brochure and a poster to help teachers and their students to investigate nature and to take
action in the area of nature conservation (SBN, 1995). The program was designed to be
implemented in spring and summer (during the vegetation period). Between March and July
1995 more than 600 classes and 14,000 students from all over Switzerland participated in the
program.
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The educational material gave instructions to teachers how to engage their students in active
investigations of nature in the surroundings of the schools during normal lessons, and how to
make observations during their daily way to school. (Note that in Switzerland primary school
children usually live within walking distance of their school.) The educational material
included information on (1) the life of the sparrow, (2) snails, slugs, and earthworms, (3)
ladybirds, (4) insects on plants, (5) trees in the city, (6) climbing plants, (7) life in cracks and
crevices, (8) lichens and mosses, (9) native and non-native plants. In the brochure, each topic
was presented on two pages. One page contained relevant information for the teachers inclu-
ding methodical and didactic aids. The other page contained suggestions for observation tasks
for the students. Illustrations of common species were also included. In addition, the brochure
contained songs, poems, riddles, suggestions for action to further nature conservation, and
detailed instructions how to participate in the so called ‘Nature Gallery’ (SBN, 1995). During
the ‘Nature Gallery’ in May 1995 students placed a picture frame around a plant (or, if
possible, animal) that they especially valued on the way to school. The children were
encouraged to stay with their frames for about one week, explaining to other children, parents,
passers-by, and in some cases also to the media why they had selected these particular
objects. Thus, the children tried to increase the awareness of adults for native species and
their diversity, with the hope to promote a behavior that is compatible with the conservation
of species.
The program was flexible. Teachers were free to select suitable topics and methods for their
classes. A questionnaire filled out by the teachers (see below) provided information on the
actual activities undertaken during the program. Teachers in particular engaged their students
in hands-on activities outside the classroom like the observation, identification, and study of
plants and animals, and the ‘Nature Gallery’ (two thirds of all reported lesson activities).
Students collected natural objects and presented them in the classroom, made drawings of
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plants and animals, and kept animals like snails, slugs, and earthworms in the classroom for
further observation. Some children kept diaries in which they wrote down their observations
of special plants and animals on their way to school.
Study design and treatments
All teachers that had ordered the educational material for the program ‘Nature on the way to
school’ were asked to participate in the present study. Together with the educational material,
they received a questionnaire for teachers, a set of questionnaires for their students, and a
letter containing an outline of the aims of the present study and detailed instructions on how
to carry out the evaluation.
Evaluations can be biased if a teacher administers both the intervention (treatment) and the
questionnaires (see Bogner, 1998). However, in the present study it was not possible to
control for researcher versus teacher influences by personally administering the
questionnaires to randomly selected classes. The only way to address the program participants
(teachers and their classes) was via the program organizers who asked for as little interference
as possible. Moreover, there is a strict data protection law in Switzerland and therefore neither
the schools nor the teachers were known to the researcher. The anonymity of the participants
was guaranteed, but to be able to match the questionnaires of classes with those of their
teachers, each set of questionnaires was marked with a number.
Possible influences of the program were evaluated using a pretest/posttest-design with a test
and a control group (Figure 1). The control group consisted of classes that did not participate
in the program but filled in the questionnaires. The necessity of a control group was explained
to the teachers and they were asked to select a matching class to serve as control group.
Teachers were asked to administer the questionnaires in the classroom. The pretest
questionnaires were completed immediately before the start of the program, and the posttest
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and teachers’ questionnaires were completed immediately after the end of the program. All
questionnaires for the children were identical except for a few additional questions about the
program in the posttest for the test group.
The instrument
The pretest questionnaires for the test and control group and the posttest questionnaire for the
control group consisted of 18 items, and the posttest questionnaire for the test group of 25
items. The items investigated children’s perception of biodiversity in everyday life and their
preferences for plants and animals. The teachers’ questionnaire consisted of 13 items, which
asked for the activities undertaken during the program, the number of lessons spent, and
teachers’ assessment of the educational material and the activities undertaken.1
The content validity of the items in the questionnaires was evaluated by a panel of four
experts in environmental education. Based on their comments, the final items were formulated
and tested in a pilot study. To test whether all children understood the questions, individual
children were asked to describe the meaning of each item and to comment on the language
(see recommendations in Friedrichs, 1990; Presser & Blair, 1994). The instrument was then
tested in four classes in a primary school that did not participate in the program. During the
trial run, the teachers were asked to review the questions and to comment on the format.
The children were asked in both the pretest and the posttest to list and name as many of the
plants and animals encountered on their way to school as they could. In the posttest, the test
group was asked in addition whether they had become familiar during the program with
plants or animals they had never seen before. The children could choose between the answers:
‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘don’t know’. In addition, they were asked to write down the names of the
organisms they had become familiar with. The children were also asked to write down their
age (in years) and sex, and the teachers were asked to indicate the time (number of lessons)
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spent on the program. The other items in the questionnaires are of no interest for the present
publication.
Response rate and respondents
The questionnaires were sent to 525 schools in Switzerland. The pretest questionnaires were
returned by 38%, and the posttest questionnaires by 31% of the schools. The data were
collected over a period of five months (March to July 1995). Most of the pretest question-
naires were returned by the end of April, and most of the posttest questionnaires by mid June.
Only classes that participated in both the pretest and the posttest were included in the analyses
(248 classes from 146 schools). The test group consisted of 166 classes and the control group
of 82 classes (see Figure 1). Although the teaching material was designed primarily for
primary schools, some secondary schools also participated in the program. (Note that in
Switzerland students start secondary school as seventh graders.) The mean age of children in
the participating classes ranged from 8 to 16 years, but the largest group was 10 years old.
Children in the test and the control group were of very similar age (10.6 years vs. 10.9 years,
p = 0.39). The proportion of girls was 51% in the control group and 49% in the test group.
Data on the time spent on the program (number of lessons) were available for 132 classes.
Statistical analysis
Because of the hierarchical design of the study (classes within schools, children within
classes), the data on changes in species perception were analyzed by nested analyses of
variance (Sokal & Rohlf, 1981). This type of analysis is necessary to avoid pseudoreplication,
which is a frequent problem in environmental education research (Leeming, Dwyer, Porter, &
Cobern, 1993). The unit of analysis for the effects of the mean age of children and of the
educational program was the class, because the mean age of the children was known for each
class, and the treatment (participation in the educational program) was applied to the
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individual classes. Individual children in a class do not constitute independent experimental
units, because they are all taught by the same teacher and interact in various ways with each
other. The effects of mean age, treatment, and number of lessons spent on the program were
therefore tested against the residual variation among classes, whereas the effects of the sex of
the children and of the interactions with this factor were tested against the residual.
To investigate the relationship between the mean age of children and the studied variables in
more detail, linear and quadratic contrasts were fitted. These contrasts are more useful than a
simple test of the effect of age, because they answer more focused questions (see Rosenthal,
Rosnow, & Rubin, 2000; Sokal & Rohlf, 1981). While, for instance, an overall test gives no
indication of the form of the relationship between age and the change in species perception
from spring to summer, a linear contrast indicates whether the increase in species perception
increases with age, and a quadratic contrast indicates whether there is an age at which the
increase is maximal (parabolic relationship).
Because of the hierarchical design, type I sums of squares were calculated (Scheiner &
Gurevitch, 1993). All analyses were carried out with the program SPSS for Windows (SPSS
Inc., 1998).
Results
On average, the posttest was carried out seven weeks after the pretest. In the posttest, the
mean number of taxa noticed by the children on their way to school was higher in both the
control group and the test group (Figure 2). However, the increase in the mean number of
taxa listed was significantly larger in the test group than in the control group (2.6 vs. 0.8;
Table 1). Thus, the program was successful and increased the perception of species. This
increase was similar for both plants and animals (see Figure 2).
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The mean age of children in a class had no effect on the mean increase in the number of taxa
noticed by the children in a class. The effect of participation in the program on the mean
increase in the number of animals and the total number of taxa noticed was similar for
children of different ages. However, the increase in plant perception due to participation in
the program increased until the age of ten and then decreased (see significant interaction
between quadratic trend component of age and treatment in Table 1).
The residual variation among classes within schools was significant. Because of the
hierarchical type of analysis, this shows that there were differences among the individual
classes that could not be explained by differences among the schools or between the mean
age of the children, nor by effects of the educational program. A possible explanation for
these differences among classes are effects of the different teachers.
The mean increase from spring to early summer in the number of taxa noticed was larger for
girls than for boys, both in the control and in the test group (Table 1: all taxa 2.4 vs. 1.5;
plants 1.1 vs. 0.8; animals 1.3 vs. 0.7). Where the increase in plant perception was concerned,
the difference between girls and boys increased until the age of eleven, and then decreased
(see significant interaction between sex and age in Table 1). Participation in the program
improved the perception of taxa by girls and boys to a similar degree (no significant
interaction between sex and treatment, Table 1).
There were large differences in the amount of time that teachers spent on the educational
program ‘Nature on the way to school’. Between one and sixty hours of lessons (mean 17
hours) were spent on the various activities of the program. The number of lessons spent had a
strong effect on the mean increase from spring (pretest) to early summer (posttest) in the
number of taxa noticed by a class (Table 2). This effect was similar for plant and for animal
taxa. The more time was spent on the program, the more additional plant and animal taxa the
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class was able to list from the pretest to the posttest (Figure 3). The number of lessons spent
changed the perception of children of different ages to a similar degree (no significant
interaction between age and number of lessons; see Table 2). The influence on changes in the
perception of girls and boys was also similar (no significant interaction between sex and
number of lessons; see Table 2).
Participation in the program not only influenced the number of plant and animal taxa that
children noticed on their way to school, but also the identity of the taxa they listed. There was
a general tendency for children in both the test and the control group to list in summer more
wild plants and animals than in spring, and less domestic species or unspecified taxa like
‘birds’, ‘trees’, ‘shrubs’, ‘grasses’, and ‘flowers’ (Figure 4). However, this switch was much
larger in the test than in the control group.
On average, 43% of the children in the classes stated that they had become familiar with new
plants or animals during the program, 21% were not sure about it, and 36% felt that they had
not become familiar with organisms previously unknown to them. Overall, the children listed
483 different new plant and animal taxa. Wild flowers, grasses, insects and spiders were
listed most frequently (Table 3). Individual taxa listed most frequently were lichens,
geraniums (Geranium spec.), fire bug (Pyrrhocoris spec.), bugle (Ajuga reptans), and ivy
(Hedera helix).
Participation in the educational program affected girls and boys differently with respect to
their perception of new taxa (Table 4a). A higher proportion of girls (46.6%) than boys
(39.7%) in a class stated that they had become acquainted with new plant or animal taxa
during the program. This was similar in all age groups (no significant interaction between age
and sex; see Table 4a).
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The mean age of the children in the classes had a strong influence on the children’s
acquaintance with new taxa. With increasing age, the mean proportion of the children in the
classes that became familiar with new taxa of plants or animals during the educational
program decreased (significant linear effect of age in Table 4a; Figure 5).
The amount of time that teachers spent on the educational program had a strong positive
influence on the children’s perception of new taxa (Table 4b). The more time a class had
spent on the program, the more children in the class felt that they had become familiar with
plants or animals they had never noticed before.
Discussion
The main aim of the educational program ‘Nature on the way to school’ was to increase
children’s everyday-life perception of plants and animals (SBN, 1995). As the results of the
present study show, the program was successful. Children that had participated in the program
increased the number of plant and animal taxa they noticed in their local environment and
also increased their ability to distinguish plants and animals at the genus or species level.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that children in the untreated control group also noticed
more taxa in early summer (posttest) than in spring (pretest), although the increase was much
larger in the test group than in the control group (2.6 vs. 0.8 taxa). The increase in species
perception by the control group could be due to a learning effect induced by the pretest
questionnaire or due to the time of year, because in early summer a higher number of plants
and animals is visible than in spring. Thus, the result demonstrates that in pretest/posttest
designs a control group is necessary to decide whether the effects observed are due to the
treatment or due to other influences during the study period. The necessity to include suitable
control groups in experimental studies on the effect of environmental education has been
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pointed out by other authors (Langeheine & Lehmann, 1986; Leeming, Dwyer, Porter, &
Cobern, 1993).
From spring to early summer the children in particular noticed more wildflowers and
invertebrates. This could be related to changes in the abundance of these taxa with the
changing season. The observed effect of the season suggests that the time of the year at which
a study on nature perception is carried out may affect the results.
The increase due to the program in the number of taxa noticed by the children may not appear
to be very large. However, after participating in the program, children were also more specific
in naming organisms. They listed less often very general taxonomic units like ‘trees’,
‘flowers’ or ‘birds’, and more often specific genera and species. As intended, participation in
the program in particular increased the number of wild plants and animals noticed. Moreover,
program participants became also familiar with local wild plants and animals previously
unknown to them. This process of becoming acquainted with new species was most
prominent in young children. These are pleasing results because several studies have shown
that children’s perception and knowledge of local organisms is poor, and that they are
generally aware of only a few species (e.g., Demuth, 1992; Hesse, 1983, 1984; Trommer,
1980). This taxonomic illiteracy is not due to a general lack of opportunity for children to see
plants and animals in their immediate environment (Lindemann-Matthies, 1999), but reflects
the lack of training in taxonomy at schools (Hershey, 1996; Pfligersdorffer, 1991). Without
training in school, children’s perception of species will reflect their preferences for particular
plants and animals (Lindemann-Matthies, 1999) and will usually be restricted to mammals
such as cats and dogs (Bell, 1981; Kellert, 1985; Morris, 1982) and garden plants with
colorful or fragrant flowers (Mayer & Horn, 1993; Scherf, 1988). Children are generally more
interested in animals than plants (Flannery, 1991; Hershey, 1996; Löwe, 1992), and, as a
consequence, have less knowledge about plants and more difficulties in naming plants than
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animals (Ryman, 1974). The similar increase in children’s perception of both plant and
animal taxa as a result of the program is thus encouraging, because it shows that with the help
of stimulating educational programs, children can also become interested in plants (see also
Hershey, 1996).
The positive effects of the educational program increased with the amount of time spent. The
more lessons teachers reserved for the program, the higher the increase in the number of taxa
noticed from spring to early summer was, and the greater the proportion of children that
became familiar with new plants and animals during the program became. This is another
pleasing result because it shows that the efforts of teachers were rewarded. On average,
teachers spent 17 hours of lessons on the program ‘Nature on the way to school’, even though
it was an educational supplement and not part of the normal curriculum. In comparison,
primary school teachers in Germany spend an average of 8 lessons on environmental issues
throughout the school year (Bolscho, Eulefeld, Rost, & Seybold, 1990). The amount of time
spent on the program ‘Nature on the way to school’ thus indicates that it was interesting for
both teachers and their students and diverse enough to occupy them for a long time. However,
teachers participating in the present study are probably not representative of Swiss teachers in
general. It is likely that they are individuals who are especially interested in nature education,
because they voluntarily included the educational supplement in their lessons. Thus, the
participants in the present study might represent a biased sample. However, the participating
teachers are the ones actually making use of nature education programs, and are thus a
representative sample for an evaluation of the effect of such supplementary programs.
Teachers who feel a personal obligation to help solve environmental problems more often
engage their students in local environmental activities (Bolscho, Eulefeld, Rost, & Seybold,
1990) and may promote environmental concern among their students (Palmer & Suggate,
1996).
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In the present study, participation in the program increased the number of animals noticed by
students of different ages to a similar degree. In contrast, the increase in plant perception was
highest in ten year old children, and approaches to foster plant perception might thus be most
effective with students of that age group. Studies in the field of developmental psychology
have shown that with the onset of adolescence humans become open towards ideas of adult
society like social equality (Piaget & Inhelder, 1983; Schenk-Danzinger, 1983). It has been
suggested that, as a consequence of this increased interest in social issues, the interest in
plants and animals decreases (Löwe, 1992). Because children have less interest in plants than
animals (Flannery, 1991; Hershey, 1996; Löwe, 1992), these developmental changes might
affect perception of plants more than that of animals and thus may have influenced the
outcome of the program.
Several studies have indicated that girls are generally more interested in biology (Löwe,
1992), have a higher motivation to achieve in science (Simpson & Oliver, 1990), and are
more concerned about conservation than boys are (Ashworth, Boyes, Paton, & Stanisstreet,
1995). In the present study, the general increase in species perception due to the changing
season was more pronounced for girls than boys, but girls and boys benefited from the
program to a similar degree. However, girls more often than boys had the impression that
they had become familiar with new species during the program. These results suggest that
girls pay more attention to individual species than boys do. Similarly, a British study showed
that although boys experienced vegetation as intensely as girls and enjoyed it just as much,
they mainly used vegetation for play and adventure, whereas girls were more interested in
vegetation as food or ornament (Harvey, 1993).
In conclusion, the results of the study are encouraging. Participation in the educational
program increased children’s perception of common local species and their ability to
distinguish them. The positive effect of the educational program increased with the number of
16
lessons spent, thus indicating that increased efforts of teachers were rewarded. However, the
children in the untreated control group also increased their perception of taxa, although to a
smaller degree. This illustrates the need for more rigorous designs in educational studies, in
particular the need to include meaningful control groups. Moreover, the time of the year may
affect the outcome of studies on nature education.
Because the program was very flexible, teachers could choose the number and length of
activities, the most promising approaches for their classes, and if necessary could modify
them. Thus, there was a lot of variation in the actual implementation of the program and it is
impossible to attribute the observed positive effects on species perception to specific
activities. Further research should compare the effectiveness of different types of intervention
on species perception by placing stricter controls on teachers’ activities. However, large
variation in the implementation of programs is the normal situation in schools and studies like
the present may provide thus a more realistic assessment of the impact of environmental
education supplements. Evaluations that impose strict controls on teachers’ behavior may
produce a biased estimate of the potential of such programs (Armstrong & Impara, 1991).
Another constraint of the present study is that the participating teachers may have been those
particularly interested in nature education and may not be representative for Swiss teachers in
general. Whenever possible, study classes should be randomly selected. However, the
participating teachers may well have been representative of teachers willing to make use of
voluntary educational supplements on nature education.
Educational programs such as the present one may lead to a better understanding of
biodiversity and might represent a small, but nevertheless important contribution to its
preservation.
17
Note
1. A set of questionnaires (English translation) is available from the author.
Acknowledgements
I thank Bernhard Schmid for valuable statistical advice and comments on an earlier version of
the paper and Penelope Oertli-Barnett for improving the English.
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23
Table 1. Nested analyses of variance of the effects of treatment (participation in the
educational program), age, and sex on the mean increase in the number of taxa noticed from
pretest to posttest by Swiss children on the way to school. The effects of school, age,
treatment, and their interactions with treatment were tested against the residual variation
among classes. All other effects were tested against the residual.
All taxa Plants Animals
Source of variation d
f
MS F MS F MS F
School 145 52.67 1.1 15.74 1.2 13.99 1.0
Mean age 6 19.03 0.4 6.01 0.5 4.87 0.3
Age linear 1 9.91 0.2 1.82 0.1 3.24 0.2
Age quadratic 1 76.66 1.6 17.14 1.3 21.31 1.5
Age (residual) 4 6.91 0.1 4.28 0.3 1.17 0.1
Treatment (T) 1 418.63 9.0** 106.80 8.2** 102.54 7.3**
Age linear x T 1 66.97 1.4 4.81 0.4 35.90 2.6
Age quadratic x T 1 147.25 3.1 60.32 4.6* 19.08 1.4
Age (residual) x T 4 20.68 0.4 5.87 0.5 7.82 0.6
Class 101 46.57 6.6*** 13.03 5.9*** 14.01 4.9***
Sex 1 94.21 13.3*** 13.90 6.3* 35.73 12.5***
Age linear x Sex 1 8.08 1.1 3.74 1.7 0.83 0.3
Age quadratic x Sex 1 27.14 3.8 11.19 5.1* 3.48 1.2
Age (residual) x Sex 4 12.93 1.8 4.98 2.3 3.02 1.1
Treatment x Sex 1 0.04 <0.1 0.55 0.3 0.29 0.1
Residual 228 7.09 2.20 2.85
Total 495
Note. * p < 0.05, **, p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.
24
Table 2. Nested analyses of variance of the effects of the number of lessons spent on the
educational program, age, and sex on the mean increase in the number of taxa noticed from
pretest to posttest by Swiss children on the way to school.
All taxa Plants Animals
Source of variation d
f
MS F MS F MS F
Mean age 6 51.76 0.8 15.31 0.8 13.97 0.8
Lessons (log) 1 786.95 11.9*** 202.90 11.0*** 190.67 10.4**
Age x lessons 6 21.83 0.3 7.46 0.4 5.54 0.3
Class 129 66.41 8.5*** 18.39 7.4*** 18.33 6.2***
Sex 1 62.34 8.0** 15.10 6.1* 16.08 5.5*
Sex x lessons 1 2.98 0.4 1.81 0.7 0.14 <0.1
Residual 119 7.80 2.48 2.94
Total 263
Note. * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.
25
Table 3. Effect of the educational program on children’s acquaintance with new taxa of plants
and animals. The plant and animal taxa were grouped into broad categories. 1195 children
answered the question.
Groups of taxa Total number of
answers
Proportion of children (%)
Wild flowers and grasses
Insects and spiders
Wild trees and shrubs, woody climbers
Wild birds
Ferns, mosses, lichens
Other groups of plants
Other groups of animals
898
328
243
236
119
291
161
75.1
27.4
20.3
19.7
10.0
24.3
13.5
Note. Percentages do not add to 100 because more than one answer was allowed.
26
Table 4. Nested analyses of variance of the effects of (a) age and sex, and (b) the number of
lessons spent on the mean proportion of children per class stating that they had become
familiar with new taxa of plants or animals during the educational program. The effects of
age, number of lessons spent, and their interactions were tested against the residual variation
among classes, whereas all other effects were tested against the residual.
27
(a) New taxa
Source of variation d
f
MS F
Mean age 6 4122.72 2.7*
Age linear 1 19840.24 13.1***
Age quadratic 1 1881.29 1.2
Age (residual) 4 753.61 0.5
Class 161 1511.04 6.0***
Sex 1 2814.40 11.3**
Age linear x Sex 1 7.94 <0.1
Age quadratic x Sex 1 256.02 1.0
Age (residual) x Sex 4 239.89 1.0
Residual 149 249.86
Total 323
(b) New taxa
Source of variation d
f
MS F
Mean age 6 5267.62 4.1**
Lessons (log) 1 30445.18 23.6***
Age x lessons 6 1124.32 0.9
Class 126 1292.67 6.0***
Sex 1 1405.06 6.5*
Sex x lessons 1 0.36 <0.1
Residual 116 216.19
Total 257
Note. *, p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.
28
Figure legends
Figure 1. Study design and number of classes in the test group and control group
Figure 2. The effect of the educational program on the number of taxa noticed by Swiss
children on the way to school. Presented is the mean increase in the total number of taxa, the
number of plant taxa, and the number of animal taxa noticed from the pretest to the posttest
by the control group (82 classes) and the test group (166 classes). Vertical bars denote 1 SE.
Figure 3. The effect of the amount of time (number of lessons) that teachers had spent on the
educational program ‘Nature on the way to school’ on changes from spring (pretest) to early
summer (posttest) in the mean number of (a) plant and (b) animal taxa noticed by Swiss
classes on the way to school. Information about the number of lessons was available for 132
classes. A data point can represent more than one case. *** p < 0.001.
Figure 4. Changes between spring and early summer in the number of taxa noticed by Swiss
children on the way to school. For each of the seven groups of taxa, the mean difference in
the number of taxa listed by the children in a class is given. Classes in the test group (166
classes) participated in the educational program ‘Nature on the way to school’, whereas
control classes (82 classes) did not. ***, p < 0.001. If the levels of significance are adjusted
by a Bonferoni procedure for multiple tests, the specified differences are still significant. o
denotes taxa that were not further specified.
Figure 5. The effect of mean age on the mean proportion of children in a class that became
familiar with new taxa of plants and animals during the educational program ‘Nature on the
way to school’. Data were available for 162 classes. Vertical bars denote + 1 SE. *** p <
0.001.
29
Test group
Control group
Pretest (166 classes)
p
Pretest (82 classes)
p
Educational program
‘Nature on the way to school’
No special school program
p
Posttest (166 classes)
and questionnaire for the teachers
p
Posttest (82 classes)
30
Mean increase in number of taxa listed
0
1
2
3Control group
Test group
All taxa Plants Animals
31
(a) Plants
Number of lessons taught (log-scale)
1 10 100
Mean increase in number of taxa
-5
0
5
10
15
r = 0.30***
(b) Animals
1 10 100
-5
0
5
10
15
r = 0.31***
32
Mean change in number of taxa
-0.4 0.0 0.4 0.8 1.2 1.6 2.0
Control group
Test group
Wild plants
Invertebrates
Wild vertebrates
Garden or decorative plants
Pet or useful animals
°Birds
°Plants
***
***
***
33
Mean age of children (years)
8 101214
Mean proportion of children per class (%)
0
20
40
60
80
100
r = 0.25***
Test group
>
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