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Abstract

This paper presents students’ word associations with terms regarding the Wadden Sea. A continuous free word-association method was used in which the students from secondary schools (n = 3119, average age: 13.54 years) reported their associations with the stimulus words Wadden Sea, mudflat hiking tour, and tides in written form. Data were collected from students living close to the Wadden Sea and from students living inland. We performed a quantitative content analysis including the corresponding formation of categories. In addition, students’ school, out-of-school with the class, and private experiences the Wadden Sea ecosystem were recorded. The study shows that not only subject-related concepts should be considered at different levels, but non-subject-related aspects as well. The associations of the inland and non-inland students are statistically significantly different. The Wadden Sea and its biome were found to be completely unknown to some students. Students’ school, out-of-school with the class, and private experiences of the wetlands are also very mixed, regarding their Wadden Sea visitation frequency, and surprisingly cannot be directly derived from their place of residence. This research makes an important contribution towards the design of future biology didactic studies on the Wadden Sea.