Environmental education through the lens of diverse elementary school students in the United States: A phenomenographic study

Brissa Yazmin Quiroz Enriquez, University of Texas at El Paso


Global environmental change is occurring, putting our planet under pressure. Children need to understand not only why the environment is important, but also their role as citizens of a globalized society and their necessary contribution to solving global problems. Students carry their own perspectives about the environment and education, and these differing perspectives should be a significant topic for environmental education research. Recent research studies have included the conceptualization of nature and the environment through children’s eyes; yet, no studies have examined the concept of environmental education through the eyes of diverse children. Minority voices and experiences are not frequently heard; therefore, research on minority children is needed to keep pace with our society’s changing demographics in order for America to continue to be competitive in the next century. The research conducted in this study showed the qualitatively different ways elementary school students understand the phenomenon of environmental education, as told through the eyes of diverse children. This study took a qualitative, interpretive approach and used phenomenography as the research methodology. California was chosen as the setting for this study since it is the most diverse state in the United States and its population reflects our country’s future demographics. Data was collected from interviews and students’ written statements, and the different ways of experiencing environmental was represented in the form of categories of description. The outcome space resulted in four categories of description: environmental education is a subject (Category 1), environmental education is a place (Category 2), environmental education is living things (Category 3) and environmental education is to protect (Category 4). This study advanced the understanding of children in the field of environmental education and helps to fill the research gap concerning diversity in this area of study. Moreover, this study provides an alternative method in qualitative environmental education research, as a phenomenographic evaluation. Findings from this research, in the form of pools of meanings and categories of description, provided a clear picture of the impact that an environmental education program has on children.

Subject Area

Environmental education

Recommended Citation

Quiroz Enriquez, Brissa Yazmin, "Environmental education through the lens of diverse elementary school students in the United States: A phenomenographic study" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3565929.