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Engaging key stakeholders in climate change: a community-based project for youth-led participatory climate action




Trott, Carlie D., author
Harman, Jennifer J., advisor
Henry, Kimberly L., committee member
Chavez, Ernest L., committee member
Peek, Lori, committee member

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Few studies have examined how youth think about, and take action on climate change and far fewer have sought to facilitate their engagement using participatory methods. This dissertation evaluated the impacts of Science, Camera, Action! (SCA), a novel after-school program that combined climate change education with participatory action through photovoice. The specific aims of this study were to: (1) Evaluate the impacts of SCA on youth participants' climate change knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors; (2) Examine how SCA participation served to empower youth agency; and (3) Explore SCA's influence on youths' science engagement. Participants were 55 youths (ages 10 to 12) across three Boys and Girls Club sites in Northern Colorado. SCA's Science component used interactive activities to demonstrate the interrelationships between Earth's changing climate, ecosystems, and sustainable actions within communities. Photovoice, SCA's Camera component, was used to explore youths' climate change perspectives and to identify opportunities for their active engagement. Finally, SCA's Action component aimed to cultivate youth potential as agents of change in their families and communities through the development and implementation of youth-led action projects. Action projects included local policy advocacy, a tree-planting campaign, a photo gallery opening, development of a website, and the establishment of a Boys and Girls Club community garden. To evaluate SCA impacts, a combination of survey and focus group methods were used. Following the program, youth demonstrated increased knowledge of the scientific and social dimensions of the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as its solutions through human action. Though participants expressed a mix of positive (e.g., hope) and negative (e.g., sadness) emotions about climate change, they left the program with an increased sense of respect for nature, an enhanced sense of environmental responsibility, and a greater sense of urgency towards the need for climate change action. Further, participants reported increased engagement in personal pro-environmental behaviors, an enhanced sense of agency in the context of climate change, and provided strong evidence of their role as agents of change in family and community contexts. Through SCA, participants gained a deeper appreciation for science (e.g., in school, careers, and society) and reported increased interest, participation, confidence, and performance in school science. Findings contribute to the vast and growing psychology literature on climate change perceptions and action, and from the understudied perspective of youth. Through a combination of innovative methods and interactive projects, the youth in this study gained a number of psychosocial and educational benefits, while tangibly contributing to the sustainable transformation of their families and communities. Findings of this dissertation have implications for educational programs, youth organizing, and interventions aimed to strengthen youths' active engagement with critical social and scientific issues that impact their lives.


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