Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 2079–2094 | Cite as

Environmental literacy in practice: education on tropical rainforests and climate change

  • Kerstin Bissinger
  • Franz X. Bogner


Environmental literacy is a key concept to promote individual behavioral changes toward a more sustainable lifestyle to consciously react to environmental challenges such as climate change. Promoting knowledge, attitudes and behaviors provides a reasonable basis to prepare adolescents for their future. A recently proposed environmental literacy model comprises three-dimensional knowledge, environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behavior. The present study applies this model by implementing an intervention focusing on tropical rainforests and climate change in a botanical garden, combining student-centered activities with self-dependent learning. Data from 283 10th graders quantify individual knowledge, attitudes and behavior scores. Knowledge acquisition, a positive development of the Inclusion of Nature in One's Self concept and increasing pro-environmental behavior intentions were found by comparing an intervention group with a test–retest group. In conclusion, our botanical garden’s intervention evidently furthered appreciative tendencies and even encouraged environmental literacy.


Three-dimensional knowledge Knowledge acquisition Linear mixed effects models Inclusion of Nature in One’s Self (INS) Self-reported ecological behavior (GEB) 



We are grateful for all students and teachers participating in this study. Furthermore, we thank the Bavarian Ministry of Education (StM-BKWK) for approving all proposed research and consent processes (III.9-5 O 5106/91/13). We appreciate the support of the Ecological Botanical Garden Bayreuth (ÖBG) where we conducted our intervention. In particular, we would like to thank Hella Donner-Heise and her colleagues for providing ideal plants for the students to work with and who attend to the greenhouses being the key to the semi-authentic learning environment. Furthermore, we are grateful for the support of Dr. Ute Becker from the Green School within the Botanical Garden of the Johannes Gutenberg University who provided the possibility for a trial run and gave feedback on the intervention. We thank Christine and Simon Thorn for discussing the R analysis. This research has been undertaken under the Open Discovery Space project funded with support from the European Commission (Grant Agreement No. 297229), and further support was granted within the framework of the “Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung” which is funded by the Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung (Grant Agreement No. 01JA160). We thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Education, Centre of Math and Science Education (Z-MNU)University of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.LehrLernGarten, Botanical GardenJulius-Maximilians-University WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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