By Susan Toth in Educator Tips & Stories
Environmental education (EE) connects us to the world around us, teaching us about both natural and built environments. EE raises awareness of issues impacting the environment upon which we all depend, as well as actions we can take to improve and sustain it.
Whether we bring nature into the classroom, take students outside to learn, or find impromptu teachable moments on a nature walk with our families, EE has many benefits for youth, educators, schools, and communities.
As a long time supporter of environmental education and as an Adjunct Professor of EE at University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, it is my passion to inspire future educators in this field. Over the years, I have asked each of my classes to share the reasons they teach EE, what it means to them, and how it can benefit learners of all ages. Here are our top ten benefits of EE.
Top 10 Benefits of Environmental Education
- Imagination and enthusiasm are heightened -
EE is hands-on, interactive learning that sparks the imagination and unlocks creativity. When EE is integrated into the curriculum, students are more enthusiastic and engaged in learning, which raises student achievement in core academic areas.
- Learning transcends the classroom -Not
only does EE offer opportunities for experiential learning outside of
the classroom, it enables students to make connections and apply their
learning in the real world. EE helps learners see the interconnectedness
of social, ecological, economic, cultural, and political issues.
- Critical and creative thinking skills are enhanced - EE
encourages students to research, investigate how and why things happen,
and make their own decisions about complex environmental issues. By
developing and enhancing critical and creative thinking skills, EE helps
foster a new generation of informed consumers, workers, as well as
policy or decision makers.
- Tolerance and understanding are supported - EE
encourages students to investigate varying sides of issues to
understand the full picture. It promotes tolerance of different points
of view and different cultures.
- State and national learning standards are met for multiple subjects -By
incorporating EE practices into the curriculum, teachers can integrate
science, math, language arts, history, and more into one rich lesson or
activity, and still satisfy numerous state and national academic
standards in all subject areas. Taking a class outside or bringing
nature indoors provides an excellent backdrop or context for
- Biophobia and nature deficit disorder decline -By
exposing students to nature and allowing them to learn and play
outside, EE fosters sensitivity, appreciation, and respect for the
environment. It combats “nature deficit disorder” … and it’s FUN!
- Healthy lifestyles are encouraged - EE
gets students outside and active, and helps address some of the health
issues we are seeing in children today, such as obesity, attention
deficit disorders, and depression. Good nutrition is often emphasized
through EE and stress is reduced due to increased time spent in nature.
- Communities are strengthened - EE
promotes a sense of place and connection through community involvement.
When students decide to learn more or take action to improve their
environment, they reach out to community experts, donors, volunteers,
and local facilities to help bring the community together to understand
and address environmental issues impacting their neighborhood.
- Responsible action is taken to better the environment -EE
helps students understand how their decisions and actions affect the
environment, builds knowledge and skills necessary to address complex
environmental issues, as well as ways we can take action to keep our
environment healthy and sustainable for the future. Service-learning
programs offered by PLT and other EE organizations provide students and
teachers with support through grants and other resources for action
- Students and teachers are empowered - EE promotes active learning, citizenship, and student leadership. It empowers youth to share their voice and make a difference at their school and in their communities. EE helps teachers build their own environmental knowledge and teaching skills. I hope these “top ten” benefits will give you the confidence and commitment to incorporate EE into your curriculum!