What effect does a teaching programme themed around pandas and other endangered species have on children? This is the main question posed by Arjen Wals, Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University & Research. His study was made possible by a donation to the University Fund Wageningen by the Ouwehands Zoo Foundation.
The study consists of two parts. The first involves the further development and expansion of the teaching programme developed by Ouwehands and its partners. The second aims to determine how the teaching programme affects primary school children.
According to researcher Arjen Wals, very little is known about this second part in particular. "While field trips and excursions have been organised in the past, this programme is different in that it takes an integrated approach to the subject. Schools are required to devote several lessons to the theme of endangered species before they visit the pandas at Ouwehands Zoo. The pupils will then have the opportunity to visit Wu Wen and Xing Ya in real life and learn about the environment they live in, the food they eat, how they act and how they reproduce. They will also learn about the efforts to protect this species."
After visiting the zoo, the children will have several more lessons, during which they can reflect on their experience at the zoo and try to apply what they learned to other endangered species. They will also examine the positive and negative effects of their daily lives on biodiversity at the local, national, and international level.
Ouwehands Zoo Foundation
"The donation from the Ouwehands Zoo Foundation to the University Fund Wageningen makes it possible to conduct research within the framework of nature conservation in general and protecting the giant panda and its habitat in particular," says José Kok from the Ouwehands Zoo Foundation. "We are extremely proud of this!"
The programme is taking a three-pronged approach in the form of head (knowledge), heart (values) and hands (action). Pupils will follow an age-appropriate programme in groups 5 and group 7. To determine the effects on the children's knowledge, attitudes, values and behaviours, the researchers will also monitor groups of children in similar schools who are not participating in the programme.
The study should help to improve the educational and social significance of zoos and help to develop high-quality teaching programmes that make a demonstrable contribution to raising ecological awareness among young people.