Environmental education (EE) refers to organized efforts to teach about how natural environments function and, particularly, how human beings can manage their behavior and ecosystems in order to live sustainably. The term is often used to imply education within the school system, from primary to post-secondary. However, it is sometimes used more broadly to include all efforts to educate the public and other audiences, including print materials, websites, media campaigns, etc. Related disciplines include outdoor education and experiental education.
Environmental education is a learning process that increases people’s knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address the challenges, and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action (UNESCO, Tbilisi Declaration, 1978). Defining Environmental Education Environmental education is defined as the process that helps in creating awareness and understanding of the relationship between human being and nature.
It helps in creating a bond between human cultures, innovation along with various aspects of nature. The main objective of environmental education is to build knowledge, values and attitudes towards responsible environmental behavior. Most environmental education are based on this fundamental concept. History The roots of environmental education can be traced back as early as the 18th century when Jean-Jacques Rousseau stressed the importance of an education that focuses on the environment in Emile: or, On Education.
Several decades later, Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-born naturalist, echoed Rousseau’s philosophy as he encouraged students to “Study nature, not books. ” These two influential scholars helped lay the foundation for a concrete environmental education program, known as Nature study, which took place in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The nature study movement used fables and moral lessons to help students develop an appreciation of nature and embrace the natural world.  Anna Botsford Comstock, the head of the Department of
Nature Study at Cornell University, was a prominent figure in the nature study movement and wrote the Handbook for Nature Study in 1911, which used nature to educate children on cultural values.  Comstock and the other leaders of the movement, such as Liberty Hyde Bailey, helped Nature Study garner tremendous amounts of support from community leaders, teachers, and scientists and change the science curriculum for children across the United States. A new type of environmental education, Conservation Education, emerged as a result of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl during the 1920s and 1930s.
Conservation Education dealt with the natural world in a drastically different way from Nature Study because it focused on rigorous scientific training rather than natural history.  Conservation Education was a major scientific management and planning tool that helped solve social, economic, and environmental problems during this time period. The modern environmental education movement, which gained significant momentum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, stems from Nature Study and Conservation Education.
During this time period, many events – such as Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War – placed Americans at odds with one another and the U. S. government. However, as more people began to fear the fallout from radiation, the chemical pesticides mentioned in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and the significant amounts of air pollution and waste, the public’s concern for their health and the health of their natural environment led to a unifying phenomenon known as environmentalism. The first article about environmental education as a new movement appeared in Phi Delta Kappan in 1969, authored by James A.
Swan.  A definition of “Environmental Education” first appeared in Educational Digest in March 1970, authored by William Stapp  Stapp later went on to become the first Director of Environmental Education for UNESCO, and then the Global Rivers International Network. Ultimately, the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 – a national teach-in about environmental problems – paved the way for the modern environmental education movement. Later that same year, President Nixon passed the National Environmental Education Act, which was intended to incorporate environmental education into K-12 schools. 7] Then, in 1971, the National Association for Environmental Education (now known as the North American Association for Environmental Education) was created to improve environmental literacy by providing resources to teachers and promoting environmental education programs. Internationally, environmental education gained recognition when the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972, declared environmental education must be used as a tool to address global environmental problems.
The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) created three major declarations that have guided the course of environmental education. About Environmental education has been considered an additional or elective subject in much of traditional K-12 curriculum. At the elementary school level, environmental education can take the form of science enrichment curriculum, natural history field trips, community service projects, and participation in outdoor science schools.
EE policies assist schools and organizations in developing and improving environmental education programs that provide citizens with an in-depth understanding of the environment. School related EE policies focus on three main components: curricula, green facilities, and training. Schools can integrate environmental education into their curricula with sufficient funding from EE policies. This approach – known as using the “environment as an integrating context” for learning – uses the local environment as a framework for teaching state and district education standards.
In addition to funding environmental curricula in the classroom, environmental education policies allot the financial resources for hands-on, outdoor learning. These activities and lessons help address and mitigate “nature deficit disorder”, as well as encourage healthier lifestyles. Green schools, or green facility promotion, are another main component of environmental education policies. Greening school facilities cost, on average, a little less than 2 percent more than creating a traditional school, but payback from these energy efficient buildings occur within only a few years. 10] Environmental education policies help reduce the relatively small burden of the initial start-up costs for green schools. Green school policies also provide grants for modernization, renovation, or repair of older school facilities. Additionally, healthy food options are also a central aspect of green schools. These policies specifically focus on bringing freshly prepared food, made from high-quality, locally grown ingredients into schools. In secondary school, environmental curriculum can be a focused subject within the sciences or is a part of student interest groups or clubs.
At the undergraduate and graduate level, it can be considered its own field within education, environmental studies, environmental science and policy, ecology, or human/cultural ecology programs. Environmental education is not restricted to in-class lesson plans. There are numerous ways children can learn about the environment in which they live. From experiential lessons in the school yard and field trips to national parks to after-school green clubs and school wide sustainability projects, the environment is a topic which is readily and easily accessible.
Furthermore, celebration of Earth Day or participation in EE week (run through the National Environmental Education Foundation) is a great way to dedicate your lessons to environmental education. To be most effective, promote a holistic approach and lead by example, using sustainable practices in the classroom and school grounds and encouraging students and parents to bring environmental education into their home. The final aspect of environmental education policies, but certainly not least important, is training individuals to thrive in a sustainable society.
In addition to building a strong relationship with nature, American citizens must have the skills and knowledge to succeed in a 21st century workforce. Thus, environmental education policies fund both teacher training and worker training initiatives. Teachers must be trained to effectively teach and incorporate environmental studies in their curricula. On the other hand, the current workforce must be trained or re-trained so that they can adapt to the new green economy. Environmental education policies that fund training programs are critical in educating citizens to prosper in a sustainable society.
Why is Environmental Education important? Environmental education programs provide many benefits to students. Outdoor Education Leads to Improved Academic Success Research shows that outdoor education enriches children’s lives in fundamental ways. Children who learn and play outdoors have: •Longer attention spans. •More creativity. •Higher levels of self-confidence. •Higher standardized test scores. •Greater academic success. •Significant improvements in cognitive development, self-discipline, imaginative and creative expression, language skills, and social interactions.
Environmental Education Teaches Children To Care For The Environment We need to raise good stewards of the environment to care for issues like resource depletion, environmental pollution, land degradation, and accelerating species extinctions. Conservation efforts will benefit when we can better educate children on their connection to and dependency upon nature. Environmental Education Programs Encourage a Spiritual Connection to the Earth The spiritual connection to the Earth teaches children that they are a part of nature and must take care of both their surroundings and other people.