University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Growing Environmental Activists: Developing Environmental Agency and Engagement Through Children’s Fiction.

Bigger, Stephen and Webb, Jean (2010) Growing Environmental Activists: Developing Environmental Agency and Engagement Through Children’s Fiction. Environmental Education Research , 16 (3 & 4 ). pp. 401-414. ISSN 1469-5871 (electronic) 1350-4622 (paper)

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This article explores the extent to which stories for young people encourage environmental engagement and a sense of agency. Our discussion is informed by the work of Paul Ricoeur (on hermeneutics and narrative), John Dewey (on primacy of experience) and John Macmurray (on personal agency in society). We understand fiction reading about place as hermeneutical, that is, interpreting understanding by combining what is read with what is experienced. We investigate this view through examples of four children's writers: Ernest Thompson Seton, Kenneth Grahame, Michelle Paver and Philip Pullman. We draw attention to notions of critical dialogue and active democratic citizenship. With a focus on the educational potential of this material for environmental discussions that lead to deeper understandings of place and environment, we examine whether the examples consistently encourage the belief that young people can become agents for change. We also consider whether the concept of heroic resister might encourage young people to overcome peer pressure and peer cultures that marginalize environmental activism. We conclude by recommending the focused discussion of fiction to promote environmental learning; and for writers to engage more with themes of environmental responsibility and agency.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

This article appears in a special issue of Environmental Educational Research entitled 'Experiencing Environment and Place through Children’s Literature'.
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Uncontrolled Keywords: environment, experience of place, young people's fiction, moral development, citizenship, responsibility, agency
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Education
Academic Departments > Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts
Depositing User: Jean Webb
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2010 16:27
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2010 06:00

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