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Families at the Heart of Students’ Eco-citizenship Participation: Between Discomfort and Collaboration

Geneviève Grégoire-Labrecque

Research framework: In the era of climate change, education systems are investing in the creation of educational content to raise awareness among their students and create new behaviors with the idea that they will be passed on to their families (Phoenix et al., 2017).

Objectives: This article aims to show how families find themselves at the heart of the mobilization of students committed to environmental action, and of the school’s mission to raise awareness and implement eco-citizenship practices.

Methodology: This doctoral research is based on a year-long data collection combining participant observation, focus groups and semi-structured interviews with students and school staff involved in a Green Committee and an Environment and Urban Agriculture program in two Montreal high schools (Quebec, Canada).

Results: On the one hand, parents and families are the target of eco-educational content to advance the environmental cause outside of school. On the other hand, their status as “young people” leads students to ask their parents and families for help in acting as ambassadors with institutions, including the school, to improve the impact of their environmental actions. In both cases, the responsibility of rallying families to the environmental cause lies with the students.

Conclusions: Through the concepts of agency and youth participation, these results show how the schools’ relationship with eco-citizenship fails to take into account the complexity of young people agency, the need for collective action, students’ family contexts, as well as the notion of transformative participation to facilitate, and even amplify young people’s involvement with the environment.

Contribution: This study helps to better understand the young person as an agent of information, mobilization and action both inside and outside the school.