Education centre > Working with Science, Games and Values in Environmental Education
Working with Science, Games and Values in Environmental Education
Contributed by Camilla Djurberg, Naturens Hus, Bergius Botanic Garden, P.O. Box 50017, S-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden
Naturens Hus (Nature’s House) started its work in 1989 with the goal of developing people’s knowledge about, and feelings towards, nature and to engage people in working for a sustainable future. We hope that people will develop a stronger interest, increased consciousness and maybe change the way they value nature. Our main target group is the younger generation and others working with them such as teachers and their families. An important part of our work is to develop methods in environmental education. Naturens Hus also links everyday life and the continuous environmental research undertaken at Stockholm University, and other universities in Sweden. The activities offered to schools include pupil programmes in the botanic garden and the surrounding natural areas, teacher training courses, and the production of material such as a newsletter with information from scientists working with environmental issues. We are not only developing experimental and interactive activities, but also games and exercises that enhance children’s positive experiences with, and relation to, nature. Since 1997, Naturens Hus has formed part of the Bergius Botanic Garden in Stockholm at Stockholm University.
Bergius Botanic Garden
Bergius Botanic Garden dates back to the late sixteenth century. The two brothers, Peter Jonas Bergius and Bengt Bergius, wanted their garden to serve as a school for gardeners and horticultural experiments. Today, the Bergius Foundation still exists as a research institute and runs the Edvard Anderson Conservatory. There are over 9000 plant species from all over the world in the Bergius Botanic Garden, and as our pedagogic arena it enables us to offer the unique opportunity to help people study plants and understand their importance on earth: ecologically, systematically, and geographically. The garden contains a variety of trees and shrubs from northern Europe, Asia and America as well as flowerbeds with examples of Nordic flora. There are also Mediterranean perennials, rhododendrons, a Japanese garden, and the Victoria house with tropical plants, organic garden plots and a great deal more.
The Bergius Botanic Garden is situated on an inlet of the Baltic, and its undulating landscape provides attractive walks all year round. The garden lies in the heart of the National City Park, a big green area conserved for the future. The National City Park, located only 3 km from the city of Stockholm, has unique cultural and natural values and is an important place for our natural and environmental studies. In 1990, the Swedish Government decided that the botanic gardens needed economic support to work with information concerning environmental research.
Naturens Hus - Pedagogic Centre for Natural Science and Environmental Education
Our goal is to develop people’s knowledge about, and feelings towards, nature and engage people to work for a sustainable future. We believe that we have to focus on more than just knowledge. There are several other important steps that lead people to become engaged in environmental issues. Today environmental issues force people to make difficult choices and maybe change their way of living. It is therefore important to teach children about their own rights, and to ask critical questions. Working with values is also important, it makes people aware of themselves and what they do and think. It is difficult for people to care about nature if they don’t have any positive nature experiences, therefore we are working to develop people’s experiences by providing activities that involve simply walking and climbing as well as exercises and games.
Setting a good example is important and we try to have ongoing discussion about our role as adults. Learning by doing is a well-known theory and our students undertake practical environmental work including taking tests in the organic garden plots and investigating what their school consumes in energy consumption. We believe knowledge about biological processes such as decomposition, photosynthesis and pollination can make it easier for people to understand environmental problems and how they affect the earth. In our new project Experiment Garden, people can interact with these processes. We also think it is important for teachers and students to meet scientists working with environmental issues and we want to create a meeting place for the general public and experts.
Our education programme has many components:
Programmes for Children and Youth
Teacher Training Courses
Tours and Hikes
Ask Naturens Hus
Using games in education can enhance the visitor’s experience in nature and increase understanding. Games usually form part of our programmes. We work with two different kinds of games firstly sensitization games that try to bring the person closer to nature, stimulate observation, and add to their enjoyment of the place. Secondly there are knowledge games which also help to enhance observation skills but also lead the visitor to deduce and form opinions on issues. We have been cooperating with an education project in Argentina and some of the games we use originate from that project.
The group forms itself into a circle around the Leader, who has a ball of string in his/her hand. The Leader asks some questions to the group e.g. ‘What provides life with energy?’ Someone may answer ‘The Sun’, and that person takes the end of the string and represents the Sun – the source of energy. The Leader asks the group ‘Who uses the energy from the sun to make food?’ A child that responds with a type of plant, for example, is given the ball of string by the Sun, a line of energy. The Leader then asks the group ‘Who eats plants to gain energy?’ A child that responds correctly is then passed energy from the ‘plant’ in the form of string. The string starts to unwind as it gets passed around the group when the others in the circle say they are different plants and animals. As more children become involved an intricate web of energy is formed. When all the children are connected by the string the Leader then introduces environmental issues for example ‘What will happen if one of the plants or animals die?’, ‘Will the life net fall apart?’, ‘What would happen if a pesticide was sprayed into our ecosystem?’. Those that would be effected directly fall down and those that feel a tug on their energy line also fall down, as they too would be affected. The only person left standing is the Sun showing that everything is interdependent. Through this activity children begin to observe the interdependency of our ecosystem.
The Photograph Game
Working with Values
People’s values make them aware of themselves and what they think about different issues. These exercises also make people aware of how they are influenced by society, school and parents.
The ‘Hot’ Chair
Working with Science
Knowledge through experience is important in our work. We try to work like scientists; explorationally and experimentally. We try not to use too many complicated measuring instruments or expensive materials so that teachers can use our methods in their own classrooms, therefore we try to use things from everyday life. Below are examples of some of our different programmes.
The Closed Ecosystem
From the Cradle to the Grave
The pupils start the activity by looking at different products and trying to find out what they are made of, and from which natural resource they originate. They then consider what happens with the product after they have used it. The children also sort different garbage and assess its origin and they finish the activity by making their own art using some of the garbage and making paper and compost.
Food, Environment and Social Justice
Sweden - Stockholm