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Engaging socially excluded young people with their local environment: lessons from the field Sarah West & Carolyn Snell University of York.

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Presentation on theme: "Engaging socially excluded young people with their local environment: lessons from the field Sarah West & Carolyn Snell University of York."— Presentation transcript:

1 Engaging socially excluded young people with their local environment: lessons from the field Sarah West & Carolyn Snell University of York

2 Overview In this presentation we aim to: –Consider the literature base around environmental education and young people –Consider key gaps in the current literature base –Introduce findings from a recent project run with socially excluded young people –Consider the effectiveness of and lessons learnt from the project –Consider the wider implications for the environmental education literature base

3 The literature base There is a large literature base around environmental education and young people covering: –Approaches to environmental education –The intrinsic value of experiences with nature and the environment –The impact such experiences may have on later life including pro environmental behaviours –That socially deprived young people have fewer and less diverse nature experiences But, within this literature base there are two significant gaps in knowledge: –limited published work considering environmental learning and ‘children being brought up at the margins of affluent societies’ (Barratt Hacking et al 2007) –surprisingly little has been written up about the practice of environmental engagement with socially deprived young people

4 Key questions Given the gaps in knowledge, this research aimed to investigate: –How is it best to engage in environmental education activities with young people who are likely to have: been permanently excluded from mainstream education poor literacy levels low self esteem and confidence learning difficulties difficulties concentrating for long periods Issues with trust –What can this research tell us about environmental learning and ‘children being brought up at the margins of affluent societies’?

5 Introducing the project OPAL funded by Big Lottery Fund to inspire new generation of nature-lovers Working with “hard-to-reach” groups Alternative Learning Programme (ALPS) -Run by a City Council youth services team -Young people who have been excluded from formal education -One-to-one support from key worker -Aims to build confidence and re-engage with education

6 Initial brief Met with youth services co-ordinator –ALPS young people have low self esteem, low confidence, usually work alone with key worker, short attention spans. –Low levels of literacy –Aged 14/15 –Suggested introductory session to understand the group

7 Activities overview Activities at a local nature reserve (Sal Hobbs and SW) -Six 1 hour sessions plus introductory session -Indoor space, enclosed garden, plus nature area -Sessions divided into shorter activities, with break

8 Evaluation Keen to evaluate the success of the project –Enjoyment for the young people –Their learning and attitude changes Methodology: –Participant observation –Photography: young people documenting work –Pre and post project interviews

9 Interviews Pre-project interview –Interviewer worked for youth services, and Social Policy researcher –Group interview, asked them about their attitudes towards the environment and nature Post-project interview –Solo interviews, so less domination by one individual –Used photographs to encourage them to talk about the activities Responses used to assess preferred sessions

10 Session 1: Getting to know each other Willow weaving Finding out what interested in –Pond dipping suggested This was one of their least favourite sessions

11 Session 2: Nature walk Pre-project interviews Walk around site –My observations Not enough variety in activity Best bit was seeing the red beetle. –What they said in interviews at end Both lad’s least favourite activity Girl: “Oh, is that an hour up already?”

12 Session 3: Minibeasts Indoor session (raining) Magnifying minibeasts –Favourite and second favourite sessions –Session over-ran –Key worker: “I’ve never seen them like that before!” –Equipment used – USB magnifier plus printer

13 Session 4: Pond dipping Underwater camera Pond dipping Magnifying pond creatures –Girl’s favourite session –Less popular with lads Weren’t bothered about underwater camera

14 Session 5: Reptiles Milk snake Common lizards –Lad A’s favourite session –Girl enjoyed it despite fears –Pond dipping afterwards

15 Session 6: Small mammal trapping Early start (9am) checking Longworth traps Lad A reluctant at first to check traps, then keen Little participation from Lad B –comments like “Kill it, squash the bag” –“Why did we have to come out so early?” - “I want a job where I work for myself, so I can get up when I like”.

16 Session 7: Indoor session with scrapbooks Interviews at end –Lad B’s favourite session (as later in day)

17 Discussion Given the gaps in knowledge identified earlier, this research aimed to investigate: –How is it best to engage in environmental education activities with socially excluded young people –What can this research tell us about environmental learning and ‘children being brought up at the margins of affluent societies’?

18 Discussion: What works? Both lad’s favourite session was magnifying insects using USB microscope I also felt this was the best session –Showing them an alien world?

19 Discussion: What works? Pre and post interviews not effective with this group e.g. “What are your views about the environment” –B: Boring –I: You think it’s boring, why do you think it’s boring –B: Don’t know –I: Why- do you know why you think that, d’you think it’s… –B: No it’s just boring –I: Boring? What do you think… –F: Don’t know Key worker explaining lack of response: “You’re wasting your breath there Sarah…they don’t really know each other either and they don’t really know us so I think it’s all a bit new”

20 Discussion: What works? Post-project interviews carried out one-to-one: –I: Do you think it was a good time of day to do this or would you change that? –B: Change it –I: To what? –B: About half pas eleven –I: So what- why's that? Just cos that's the time you normally get up? –B: Get up whatever time I need to get up but half past eleven you can stay in bed longer

21 Discussion: What works? Time of day was main criticism from interviews e.g. –I: All right, so you weren't sat there thinking, watching your clock and thinking 'oh Wish I could go home and do something else’ –B: No –I: Did any of 'em go really quickly and you thought where's that hour gone? –B: Yeah…the mouse thing one –I: The mouse one? So what was good about that that made it go really quickly? –B: Cos we seen some dirty animals

22 Discussion: What works? Preparation of sessions very time consuming –Needed suite of activities to keep them occupied –Needed back up plans in case original plan not engaging enough Ability to adapt the sessions –Never knew how many would turn up –e.g. Magnifying insects a success so repeated later Mentally challenging –Lack of enthusiasm, especially with first two sessions…

23 Discussion: broader reflections It is hard to say whether this experience will have any impact on future environmental attitudes and behaviours: –These young people at starting on a very different level to those described in the literature –Despite the positive levels of engagement in the sessions, there was no obvious difference in the young peoples’ views about the environment after the course – the environment was still ‘boring’ Are events around nature engagement necessarily there to promote a broader environmental message? The intrinsic value of engaging in these activities –Contribution towards Alternative Learning programme –Interest and enthusiasm for some of the sessions –Social inclusion goals

24 Thanks Thanks to… Sessions couldn’t have run without Sal Hobbs, OPAL PhD student Young people and their key workers who took part Interviews by Sarah Wilson, Social Policy and Social Work Funding for the OPAL project from the Big Lottery Fund under Changing Spaces programme

25 Questions… ….Any questions?


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