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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Experiential environmental education : looking at the socio-cultural variables that affect attitudes and behaviours following a marine conservation program Kennedy, Jennifer Elizabeth


This study explores the impacts of an experiential, environmental school program (Intertidal Marine Biology) at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre that is linked to the British Columbia Grade 11 Biology Curriculum. Little is known about the socio-cultural characteristics of participants that may influence their behaviours about, and attitudes towards, marine environmental issues after participation. This is reflected across the field of informal environmental education, and while this study is focussed on a unique program, the results offer insight into the field of experiential, informal, and environmental education in general. This research is based on a two-stage, mixed methods approach. The first stage comprised of an assessment of students’ environmental attitudes and behaviours using a specially developed questionnaire instrument that was administered to 129 students from three different schools. The second stage involved face-to-face student interviews with a sub-sample of stage 1 students. The variables that were examined included year of participation, school, gender, ethnicity, birthplace, parent’s birthplace, hobbies, museum visitation, Ocean Wise use, most enjoyable component, and least enjoyable component of the program. These were broadly conceived to be socio-cultural variables that may have an impact on a student’s attitudes and behaviours following engagement in the program. The results of this study were based on these independent socio-cultural variables, which were tested against the dependent measures of attitude and behaviour. Many of the socio-cultural variables were demonstrated to be statistically significant in influencing students’ perceptions of their own attitudes and behaviours after the program. Students consistently showed an increase in their positive environmental attitudes and behaviours after participation in the program. When measured against the socio-cultural variables, student attitudes and behaviours were influenced by factors including school, gender, birthplace, parent’s birthplace, parent’s birth country, favourite hobbies, and museum visitation. However, ethnicity and year of participation proved not to be significant in this study. The results of this study indicate that socio-cultural variables play an integral role in the attitudes and behaviours of students. This knowledge is an important factor for informal educators to consider when designing experiential, environmental programs.

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