future.scapes – Global Change from children’s perspective

Aims

The Austrian research project future.scapes. (‘future.scapes - Globaler Wandel und dessen Auswirkungen auf Landschaft und Gesellschaft; Szenarien künftiger Entwicklung und Lösungsstrategien zur Minderung negativer Effekte 2005 to 2008) deals with effects of Global Change on society and landscape as well as with local and regional processes of change that are caused by global demographic and economic development. The overall aim of the project is to provide local actors with strategies to implement resilient land use and to safeguard adaptable social and economic structures in their living environments.
Cooperation with primary schools is one essential part of the project. The children that took part in the project gained an understanding of how to work scientifically on complex matters like climate change and they contributed precious local information that otherwise would have been out of reach for the researchers.

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© Ika Darnhofer

Argument for inclusion

Children were very actively involved in this project, working side by side with researchers regardless of the fact that they were so much younger

Relevant information in short

Main Research Partners

Austrian Research Centres – System Research; University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna; Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research Davos; Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration; Austrian Institute of Ecology

Educational partners

Elementary schools of Gars am Kamp; Elementary school of Steyr;
Elementary school of Silberwald/Montafon.

Age classes

8 to 9 years

Thematic orientation

Global Change research

Main Focus

Strategy development for coping with negative effects of Global Change

Duration of activity

Research project 2005 to 2008, activities with schools 10 days

Resources

Funding by national research program: ‘proVISION for Nature and Society’

Website

http://www.boku.ac.at/futurescapes/

Contact person

Dr. Wolfgang Loibl, ARC

Context and conditions

children discuss project

© Ika Darnhofer

Global change encompasses multiple fields: climate-, economic-, social-, and land use change. Knowledge about local effects of Global Change is still scarce and afflicted with high uncertainty. It is a crucial challenge for political and civil stakeholders to develop strategies to anticipate and cope with globally induced changes. future.scapes examines and downscales Global Change effects to local and regional levels. The research focuses on those most pressing economic, societal and landscape transitions. It supports practitioners in recognising, understanding and managing change.

The research project future.scapes was initiated by the research institution ‘Austrian Research Centres - Systems Research’ in reacting to a call of the research programme “proVISION” of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research.

Activities and Contents

In three typical Austrian regions – in the rural region around Gars am Kamp in Lower Austria, in the industrial region around Steyr in Upper Austria and in the mountain region Montafon in Vorarlberg - the researchers and their young partners from the elementary schools jointly analysed the development from past to present and then generated future scenarios.

children in group

© Ika Darnhofer

The pupils contributed their perceptions of environmental and social problems and the changes having taken in the past as well as the changes that could possibly take place in future. They took new photos by themselves, collected old photos and produced drawings of positive and negative future scenarios. The results of the research education cooperation are: photo albums illustrated with comments of the pupils, DVDs with short films produced by themselves and card-games (quartets) for each region.

Methods

The main goal of the collaboration was to identify children’s perceptions and opinions concerning Global Change in urban, rural and mountain regions.
In the context of the Research Education Cooperation the pupils reflected on their local environment and surroundings and illustrated their positive and negative thoughts on these. They were supported in learning to think about their future. 

Outcomes

children in group

© Ika Darnhofer

The REC resulted in broad benefits for the pupils and teachers, both on an educational level and on the individual development. New perspectives and thoughts of the future evolved concerning environmental and social matters of their local surroundings and the researchers got ideas for their analytical approach and strategy development.
The cordial ambience of the cooperation was one of the main reasons for success.

Mutual benefits

boy gives presentation

Pupils: They learn to work creatively on the topic of Global Change and analyse local issues from their personal perspective. They enjoy participating in the project over a long period of time and having the chance to create their own animated DVD.

Teachers: They experience a new method of teaching in cooperation with researchers as having benefits as to competence building and motivation. Their feedback is that it is very inspiring to experience the big interest of parents and community council as well as the publicity effects for the schools.

Researchers: The cooperation allows them to take into account the perceptions of the pupils being the generation of tomorrow and to learn more about their priorities and visions. The local and regional embedment of the research definitely profited from the partnership with the schools and they made the experience that some precious stimulation for the research processes resulted directly from the discussion with their young colleagues.

Evaluation /feedbacks

 The process as well as the results of the cooperation process between researchers, teachers and pupils was an important part of the compulsory ongoing project evaluation. Due to the fact, that the obligatory involvement of schools in the projects of this research program was something completely new and rather experimental, the performance of the collaboration has been watched and analysed with high interest. Several reports, a conference contribution and two publications on REC experiences were generated in this project.

Limits and possibilities

Children working in groups

Only 5% of research project-budget was dedicated for financing the time investment of the researchers in the Research Education Cooperation and the necessary equipment. The researchers strongly recommend higher budgeting of the REC because by far much more time was dedicated to the REC than financed by the ministry.

Links

  • Other project from Germany
  • Other projects for 11 to 16 year old students
  • Other projects for 16 to 22 year old students