The image of rivers in formal geography education: a meandering road to sustainability

Authors: Joanna Zawiejska*, Pedagogical University of Cracow
Topics: Geography Education, Environmental Perception, Geomorphology
Keywords: geography education, river perception, river restoration
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


With the increasing number of river restoration projects and the legal requirement to achieve good ecological status of rivers in the EU, it has become evident that public acceptance and participation are often key to the success of these efforts and to sustainable river management. Results of river perception studies often call for more education about natural rivers and dynamics with the assumption that this should occur in schools. However, little attention is paid to how we actually teach about rivers in the formal education system. In this study, I systematically examine pictorial content, factual information and context in which rivers are presented in geography textbooks published over the last 10 years in Poland as well as the content of current geography curricula to determine how knowledge about rivers obtained in school may influence students’ future perceptions of rivers and river restoration. The analysis showed a distorted and inconsistent image of rivers, focused mostly on river use and human-altered riverscapes. Selective presentation of river forms (meandering) conveys a false view of their actual diversity while information on natural river dynamics is lacking or discussed in the context of natural distasters and damage to infrastructure and property. This shows that although geography education is intended to enhance pro-environmental attitudes, it is unlikely to have that effect in relation to rivers and riverscape perception as the information and the image of rivers imparted in the textbooks is largely outdated and non-representative of the actual role they play in the natural environment.

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