Why Environmental Education?
“Environmental Education (EE) is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem-solving, and take action to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions” (Environmental Protection Agency, 2018)
First developed in the 1970s, EE was a response to children’s lack of focus and knowledge about the natural world. EE has since become a valuable tool in education with numerous mental, physical, and educational benefits for learners of all ages and abilities.
Mentally, spending time outside enhances children’s imagination and creativity skills, in comparison to those who do not. Also, people who spend more time outside or include breaks that involve spending time outside - going on a walk or short bike ride - are less likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Finally, both children and adults experience higher levels of memory improvement and understanding while learning outside. It’s simple: learning in nature creates healthier, better thinkers.
Physically, children and students who spend time outside are more likely to avoid high obesity rates, effectively combat ADD and ADHD, and experience increased healthier nutrition decisions. Many environmental education experiences involve some type of physical activity from walking, hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, and so much more! Learning about the natural world around you can overall lead to a healthier lifestyle and decision-making skills.
Educationally, students benefit from EE by becoming curious, asking questions, developing their leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. Specifically, students are asked to create and apply solutions to real-world problems that scientists, businesses, and governments ask everyday. In the process, students become well-rounded life-long learners, capable of making wise decisions regarding the conservation of natural resources and the well-being of our community at large.
For more information on the benefits of EE, we recommend the following sources:
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
What is Environmental Education? (Referenced above)
Note: Environmental Education is different from Outdoor Education in that EE is learning about the natural, ecological, and scientific world around us, usually in an outdoor setting. Whereas Outdoor Education is learning any type of subject (math, literacy, social studies, science, etc…) while being outside.Though we’ve designed our curriculum to be cross-curricular, including a prominent social-emotional theme, our main focus remains Environmental Education.