Oregon State University and Stanford University developed an energy conservation program which showed that children’s energy-saving behaviors impact their parents’ own habits.
The program, called Girls Learning Environment and Energy, or GLEE, was tested on 30 Girl Scout troops in Northern California, and the results were positive, not only for the children but also for their entire families.
Researchers found that the energy-saving behavior the Girl Scouts gained continued for more than seven months after the program ended.
They also found that the program had an impact on the energy-saving behavior of parents of the Girl Scouts for more than eight months.
Hilary Boudet, an assistant professor of climate change and energy at OSU and a lead author on the project, said the results from the program show important implications of the interactions with energy conservation at a young age.
“The thing that stands out from the study is that it really affirms that children are a critical audience for environmental programs,” said Boudet.
“And because their current behavior likely predicts future behavior, if we can get them to adopt energy-saving behaviors now, and engage their families and community members in those efforts, they can really play an important role in bringing about a sustainable future,” said Boudet.
The 318 participating fourth and fifth grade Girl Scouts learned energy-saving behavior through role playing and other interactive activities during their troop meetings.
The program was made up of five, hour-long sessions that were delivered in the girls’ regular troop meetings.
“We wanted to make it fun for the Girl Scouts, so all the lessons revolved around creating a videotaped newscast,” said Boudet. “The Girl Scouts would play the role of news anchors and investigative reporters and energy experts, and that would incorporate some of the behavioral techniques that we know are important from other studies in public health, so they had to rehearse and model the behavior changes and then they would ultimately film the energy saving behaviors that they learned in each lesson.”
The program targeted two different types of energy-saving behaviors, inside the home and out, said Boudet.
The two programs included lessons about turning off lights and adjusting the refrigerator temperature, as well as eating less meat and traveling by bike or walking instead of traveling by car.
Boudet and other researchers are working on disseminating the project to other places. They currently have an online version of it that other Girl Scout troop leaders can sign up for in order to implement the program for themselves.
Boudet said she and other researchers are also working to adapt the program to other types of after school programming like Boys and Girls Club.