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Research Output: Creating Eco-warriors at Ara

Dr Dave Irwin, manager of the sustainability and outdoor education programmes at Ara, has discovered a way to motivate and empower students.

Dr Irwin will be presenting his research, Eco-warriors or eco-worriers - Educating for change in the 21st century, at Ara's Research Month.

Dr Irwin wanted to investigate how sustainability action projects affected the students undertaking them and implications for how they look at their own capabilities.

"In the presentation I want to play with the terms Eco-warrior or the Eco-worrier. I want to explore whether action projects have had a positive effect on students or whether being immersed in discussion about sustainability has just made them overly worry about the issues," he says.

"It can be hard to teach people about sustainability and motivate people without making them feel that it is hopeless cause."

For his research, Dr Irwin spoke to students and examined some of their post-projects reflections.

"As part of their courses they'd done a lot of work on reflecting how they felt after the projects were completed, particularly in regards to the difficulties in assimilating sustainability into their own lives."

He found that students felt empowered and impassioned by the action projects.

"Students think of themselves in a different way after completing these projects. It gave them confidence to make changes to the world around them and to their own lives. They had more hope that things could change and they felt able to make changes within their communities."

The future implications of Dr Irwin's research could see more tutors using action projects to inspire students.

"I think the research shows that action projects are an important part of the curriculum in teaching sustainability. We need to get students thinking about issues that are affecting them in the 21st Century and see how they can help fix those issues."