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Practicing Climate Action: Following Climate Change Education Practice Elements in a K-12 School Using a Whole Institution Approach




Hargis, Kristen

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As humans, we now possess more knowledge about actions needed for planetary rehabilitation than hitherto seen before; however, current climate actions remain insufficient to address the most deleterious effects of climate change. With fewer than twelve years remaining to prevent climate catastrophe, it is imperative to recognize knowledge as more than cognitive accumulation. Most climate change education and research to date, however, has focused on instilling individual scientific cognitive clarity instead of learning how to do climate actions together. This study utilized a practice lens to adjust conceptual focus away from the knowledge of individual learners to the climate action practices they collectively ‘carry,’ (un)equally share, and mutually shape, wherein understandings, meanings, and purposes are irreducible to personal attributes. Shove and colleagues’ conceptualization of practices was used to examine climate action practices occurring at a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Canada using a whole institution approach to climate change education. A whole institution approach includes climate change education within and/or across each of the domains of Overall Governance, Teaching and Learning, Community Partnerships, and Facilities and Operations The data generation methods used in the study included a sensory walk, observations, interviews, focus groups, document collection, and photography. The findings illustrate how the climate action practices observed and described by participants emerged, endured, and disappeared through a complex set of interactions, influences, (dis-)(re-)connections, motivations, and forms of monitoring. Key climate action practice elements (i.e., materials, competences, and meanings) within each of the four domains were followed and are described, as well as significant connections within and across whole institution domains. This research has implications for climate change education practice, policy, and research, which include 1) the potential of using a whole institution approach to climate action in education, 2) how to support the emergence, endurance, and disappearance (if needed) of practice elements, as well as connections between practice elements, and 3) how practice theory is beneficial for CCE research.



climate change education, whole institution approach, practice theory, education policy, kindergarten to grade twelve education



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


School of Environment and Sustainability


Environment and Sustainability


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