“Carbon literacy practices”: textual footprints between school and home in children’s construction of knowledge about climate change

Satchwell, Candice orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8111-818X (2013) “Carbon literacy practices”: textual footprints between school and home in children’s construction of knowledge about climate change. Local Environment, 18 (3). pp. 289-304. ISSN 13549839

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2012.688735


This paper examines the notion of “carbon literacy practices” through reporting on a small research project aimed at understanding how children make sense of climate change, and their subsequent related practices at school, at home, and in the community. Drawing on a background in New Literacy Studies (e.g. Barton et al 2000; Satchwell & Ivanic 2009 and 2010), the paper explores the relationships among children’s understanding of climate change, their literacy practices in relation to climate change, and their environmental social practices.
Data is included from a project involving children and their families from three primary schools – with and without “eco-school” status, which asked: What and how do children learn about climate change at school? What and how do they learn at home and outside of school? How do these kinds of learning relate to each other, and how is what they learn put into practice? Put simply, how might children become “carbon literate” citizens? This article will report on the methodological challenges of the project and the use of some innovative methods to address these using mobile technologies.
In addition, the paper interrogates the notion of children as agents of change. The concept of children influencing the behaviour of others sounds convincing, but is based on a straightforward model, described by Shove (2010) as the ABC model – which is considered an effective strategy in health care (stopping parents smoking) and in marketing (persuading parents to buy certain products), but is not necessarily transferable to other contexts. Further, it is clear from work in literacy studies and education (Ivanic et al 2009; Gee 2003; Reinking et al 1998; Tuomi-Grohn and Engestrom 2003) that the transfer of linguistic and semiotic signs is by no means equivalent to the transfer of knowledge, values or functions. In other words, a school lesson or a computer game about climate change and its effects does not automatically mean that a child will turn the lights off at home. The paper considers these issues with reference to qualitative data collected from observations, conversations on “Twitter”, focus groups, and individual interviews.

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