Exploring elementary student energy literacy outcomes in the outdoor classroom : a comparative study
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Environmental issues such as global warming, air and water pollution, and excessive consumption of fossil fuels are the challenging problems that endanger the future of our planet and, consequently, humankind. These problems should be addressed clearly, and appropriate education should be provided for people since "quality education" is one of the 17 primary sustainable development goals (UN, 2020b). Built environment education or "green building literacy" is another topic that needs to be addressed. Although new technologies make the built environment greener and more sustainable, to achieve the sustainability goals, green building users should learn about the green features of the building appropriately. The purpose of this investigation was to identify the potential for an outdoor classroom (Learnscape) with installed PV solar system together with a six-week energy literacy curricular unit to enhance energy literacy outcomes for elementary students. The fourth-grade students from two elementary public schools, one with the Learnscape (n=42) and the other without Learnscape (n=63) participated in this study. We collected data using questionnaires, system model drawings, interviews, and observation. Questionnaires and system model drawings data were quantitatively analyzed using the non-parametric methods. Also, we used interviews and observation data to describe and clarify the analyzed quantitative data. Based on the analysis, we found that the energy literacy curricular unit improved students' energy literacy in all three dimensions of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The energy literacy questionnaires revealed that Learnscape students were not distinguished in energy literacy knowledge at the beginning of the unit but had significantly higher scores at the end of the unit. Student drawings also showed that the performance of the students in both schools increased from beginning to end of the unit, and Learnscape students had significantly higher scores for explaining the science behind their drawings in the post drawings. Implication suggests that the presence of green infrastructure on the school campus has the potential to enhance youth environmental literacy. Also, curricula that focus attention on the sustainable built environment are necessary to engage students in the green features on campus.
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