Learning Places And ' Little Volunteers ' : An Assessment Of Place- And Community Based Education
In 2003, the Ministry of Education in China mandated that all grade levels in all public schools incorporate environmental education (EE) into every subject. While an impressive objective, there have been numerous barriers to implementation and few success stories. However, one initiative in the highly urbanized city of Kunming, which trained students to be volunteer docents in a local museum, demonstrated positive learning outcomes and personal growth among students.
With the advent of rapid urbanization, China currently faces immense environmental problems—ranging from air and water pollution to species extinction—in a time where younger generations are becoming increasingly disconnected from the environment. Also, knowledge of local history, ecology, geography, and culture is not tested on the high school and college entrance exams; therefore, this information is excluded from most classroom curricula. This disconnection between youth and the environment is particularly troubling as behavioral research has found that pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors later in life are often influenced by formative childhood experiences in nature.
Despite these obstacles, there has been one noteworthy EE success story: In Kunming, an innovative teacher developed an initiative to bring her fifth- and sixth-grade students into the local Yunnan Provincial Museum through a…