The Games Children Play
Volume 1 Number 15 - December 1997
Dr. Patricia A. Hewitt
Environmental educators agree that respect for the environment, the teaching of values as related to the environment, and encouraging a change in environmentally responsible behavior should all be integral parts of any environmental curriculum. Environmental education may become one of the most important areas of teaching as the balance in the natural environment becomes unstable with continued destruction of vital ecosystems. Young children are eager to learn about their surroundings. This is evident as they explore. dig, collect and become engrossed with the discovery of new bugs and other organisms. Beginning environmental education as soon as a child enters school seems to be indicated as they are already intimately involved with it. Stressing it in school also validates the concepts and discoveries they have already made. Actively involving students in their communities and in solving local environmental problems encourages them to become active at a more global level. Knowledge alone cannot influence the protection of the environment. Action is intimately related to how people value their knowledge, how much they feel they can control their surroundings, and what happens within those surroundings (Hines, Hungerford & Tomera, 1987).
Rationale for Use of Games
Games provide a means for students to become more active in their own learning while allowing all to participate (Boocock & Schild, 1968). Games encourage active and simultaneous participation and encourage learner-to-learner interactions, which are most influential on students' performance in instructional settings (Johnson & Johnson, 1980).
The results of this study were encouraging. Students who initially had low scores on environmentally responsible behavior increased their scores significantly. The increases were, however, significant for only four of the games, and boys' scores out paced increases for girls. Games covering the topics of pollution and world population did not increase scores. This was an unexpected result, but students' comments in the margins of the questionnairehelped to clarify why these games may not have been successful. For instance, one questionnaire statement, "Couples should not have more than two children" received many comments, showing students' beliefs that parents should have as many children as they want, and that having any number of children was a personal right for any one living in the USA. Through other items on the test, students commented that they felt the earth would soon have too many people, and that the number of people in the USA should not increase. They seemingly could not reconcile this with the former statement. Another area of concern was pollution. While the majority of students agreed that people cause most pollution, they often scratched out the "like me" in the statement "People (like me) are the cause of most pollution" before agreeing with the statement. Nobody would like to be blamed for damaging the environment. This may be typical of the adult population as a whole as well. Similar reasons could have effected the outcome of the "Individual Effects on the Environment" game.
Arcury, T. & Johnson, T. (1987). Public environmental knowledge: A statewide survey. Journal of Environmental Education, 18 (4), 31-38.
Boocock, S.S., & Schild, E.O. (Ed.). (1969). Simulation Games in Learning. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.
Horvat, R. & Voelker, A. (1976). Using a likert scale to measure "environmental responsibility. Journal of Environmental Education, 8(1), 36Ä47.
Jaus, H. (1982). The effect of environmental education instruction on children's attitudes toward the environment. Science Education, 66(5), 689-692.
Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T. (1980). Promoting constructive studentÄstudent relationships through cooperative learning. Washington, DC.: Minnesota University, National Support Systems Project. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 249 216)
Spiegel, D.L. (1990). Decoding and comprehension games and manipulatives. The Reading Teacher, 44(3), 258-261.
ResuméDes jeux ‚ducatifs destinés … apprendre les éléments en rapport avec des sujets environnementaux sur les zones humides, la pollution, les espèces menacées, la population, l'énergie et les influences des individus sur l'environnement ont ét‚ le thème de cette étude portant sur 295 étudiants du Midwest de 4ème, 5ème et 6ème grade. Les ‚éudiants ont subi un pré-test et un post-test utilisant une méthode mise au point par Hovat et Voelker pour déterminer les changements dans le comportement et le sens des responsabilités face … l'environnement. On a trouv‚ des résultats significatifs entre les filles et les garçons et entre ceux qui ont joué … quatre des jeux et ceux qui n'y ont pas jou‚ du tout.
ResumenEn Midwestern se diseñaron diversos juegos instructivos para la enseñanza medioambietal. El estudio se realizó en 295 estudiantes de cuarto, quinto y sexto grado. Los temas de estos juegos fueron: Tierras H£medas, Polución, Especies Amenazadas, Población, Energía y Efectos Individuales en el Medio Ambiente. A los estudiantes se les realizaron pruebas anteriores y otra posteriores al estudio usando el método de Horvat y Voelker para determinar los cambios en el comportamiento medioambiental de los estudiantes. Se encontraron resultados significativos entre chicos y chicas y entre estudiantes que jugaron cuatro de los juegos y aquellos que no jugaron ninguno.
Last Child in the Woods
Richard Louv's book argues that children desperately need to be able to play in the woods - and that Western culture's sterile rejection of nature is harming them in body and soul.