Bilingual children could take the lead in marine environmental action – Zoo House News

Bilingual children could take the lead in marine environmental action – Zoo House News

  • Science
  • January 14, 2023
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Participating in environmental education programs can motivate children of different language groups to be responsible about the environment, a recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University suggests.

In the study, researchers asked 644 elementary school children how motivated they were to behave in an environmentally friendly manner before and after participating in an environmental education program — such as using a reusable water bottle at home or refusing to use plastic straws in restaurants.

Developed by Duke University Marine Lab, the program focuses on debris in oceans and other waterways and includes classes on how long different types of debris remain in waterways, garbage cleanup, and hands-on study of challenges related to marine debris. After the program, the students performed better, on average, in the survey that measured their motivation to act on behalf of the environment. On average, bilingual or multilingual students made greater progress compared to students who mainly spoke English at home – a result that researchers say is promising and needs further study.

“What we saw was that overall, the programs seemed to encourage green actions by everyone, but when we investigated, most of the program’s impact was explained by the response of linguistically diverse children,” said study co-author Kathryn Stevenson . Associate Professor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at NC State. “This is encouraging as multilingual children are a growing part of the US population and we want our programs to resonate with all. It also shows how young people from diverse backgrounds can make important contributions. It also makes us ask, are students taking these lessons home with them?”

The study is part of a series of research examining how environmental education can affect children, their families and their communities. In a previous study, researchers found that parental concerns about climate change increase after their children are raised. In another study, they found that local leaders and voters’ views changed after watching children’s presentations on an environmental issue.

“We were interested in the mechanisms of intergenerational learning,” Stevenson said. “We saw that this program can affect all children involved, but this suggests it might work differently for children who speak more than one language. Children who act as translators for their family may be more proficient at translating on many levels – linguistic or cultural – and we want to know how this might impact intergenerational learning about the environment.”

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