This group, with
some of the oldest children (year six - aged ten and eleven - as were those at
Royal Park and Burley St. Matthias), were unlike any of the others in that they
regularly called each other to account for anti-environmental behaviour, or hypocrisy,
in an assertive or even aggressive manner. From the first week onwards, in characteristically
lively discussion, they would frequently launch into vigorous argument with their
groupmates regarding behaviour which contradicted their claimed views, or vice
versa. For example, the hypocrisy of those in the group who complained of litter
but also dropped it themselves, or who said they loved animals but were not vegetarian,
was criticised in a manner which was not without humour, but was nevertheless
robust. Entirely at the children's own instigation, their 'practice' video in
the very first week became almost an impromptu court on behalf of the environment,
with individuals hauled up to account for the difference between their stated
beliefs and actual behaviour. For example, here Izoduwa was clearly finding Charlotte's
how do you feel about pollution then, about litter and everything?
you don't care much about the environment then?
don't understand what you're going to do to try and help.
already told you.
you said you were going to stop using paper, you're gonna try and stop
using paper, you didn't say whether you were going to stop.
like giving up chocolate, it's very hard.
Soon more of the
group joined in with each 'interview', and debate became even more heated, as
in this extract from an extended session where Martyn was put on the spot:
you pick up litter?
yeah, so how come there's still litter in that area then?
you can't go round picking up all-
you're saying every single night you pick up litter?
bemused by the onslaught): Naw...
So you don't do anything for-
didn't say that though.
he said he picks up litter.
didn't say he picks it up every night though did he?
how come there's still litter then?
he can't pick up everything, can he?
litter every night put there, by someone walking past, so you must be picking
it up every night, so that-
you going to stop those people putting litter on the floor?
know. I couldn't stop them.
you not do a parade or something, like a sign? See, I don't think you're ever
serious about this environment. I don't think you deserve to be in it.
you eat animals?
You don't care much about the environment at all.
lie to me!!
a few more seconds, until Martyn is booed off camera].
The children were
clearly not interested in having a 'cosy' debate, nor even in being particularly
nice to each other. Whilst some of these arguments were, to a certain extent,
banter amongst friends, those being grilled did appear somewhat uncomfortable,
and environmental justice was - temporarily at least - seemingly put above respect
for individual feelings. This is illustrated again in one further example:
you care about the animals?
do you eat them then?
The group were
able to name a large number of environmental problems, and generally seemed to
understand the more complex processes causing acid rain, and the depletion of
the ozone layer. Their answers were perhaps the most sophisticated of all the
groups; for example, they noted (with no prompting) that acid rain could in turn
harm animals who eat affected plants, could kill fish and other life in rivers,
and that the damage done to trees would be bad not only in itself, but also for
the animals that live in them. Izoduwa, a Black girl noted for her articulacy,
added the Third World to the list as a place with problems. Her sister had taught
her African history, and she was familiar with the history of slavery. Izoduwa
commented that Britain had left Africa poor, with and after the slave trade, and
so should help the countries there now.
Apart from one
boy, Chris, the group said that they were bothered about such environmental problems,
although a couple said that they were more honestly only concerned 'sometimes'.
Chris's lack of concern seemed linked to his image (and self-image) as a disobedient
male pupil, and indeed this was made explicit in this interview on video:
you think where you live is, um, a tidy place?
quite tidy, about one third, no two thirds tidy.
so like, it could be more better, but it's quite good.
could be more better but you don't bother to tidy it up?
because I can't.
I'm harder. Because when you're hard, you can't.
kind of things would you like to do to help the environment?
The direct connection
between environmentalism and a concern for nature and others was clearly too much
for Chris's notion of his own masculinity - being 'hard' - to allow. Nevertheless,
as the completed video shows, even he could occasionally be heard to express appreciation
of a clean environment.
Most of this group
both started and finished the project with quite strong pro-environmental views,
making any potential changes difficult to spot. However, the children seemed to
enjoy having the opportunity to make links between their views and the local area,
and to examine inconsistencies between their groupmates' professed beliefs and
actual behaviour. The class teacher believed them to be a middle-ability group,
albeit ones who might be expected to have something to say for themselves, one
way or the other. She was consequently impressed by the quality of their video
work, and indeed was surprised to hear of specific pupils doing particularly well
- producing interesting arguments or novel ideas - when their written work was
generally of a lower standard.
view of their local area did not seem to change substantially. In the first week
it was said to be a mix of good and bad aspects, and the video made over subsequent
weeks reinforced this thesis, although the group did rate the local park highly.
The video project clearly got the children thinking, however, and challenging
each other's behaviour in a surprisingly forceful but certainly pro-environmental