Environmental education is an important tool to have in today’s society and it is essential to start this conversation at an early age, so children can grow and be environmentally conscious and aware as they grow and develop.
This process allows children to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and eventually use that knowledge that they’ve occurred to take action to improve the environment. With being more informed, the eventual goal is that children will develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills and the mindset to make informed and responsible decisions.
Moving forward, I want to address how, while there are a myriad of environmental issues, there are governmental lengths that are being taken to address them as well as the growing importance and emphasis on environmental education for the youth.
According to the EPA, climate change is having a profound impact on our society.
Effects caused by global warming include increasingly warming temperatures, changes in precipitation, increased in the frequency and intensity extreme weather events, and rising sea levels have had a direct impact on our health by affecting our food consumption and the water we use to name a few problems. The EPA suggests that these particular health risks and there severity will depend on the ability of governmental agencies awareness and preparedness for these issues. Impacts may vary, but come down to how individual are able to adapt to change.
Environmental education is an important part of today’s society and there are a myriad of ways people are addressing the problem.
Issues such as global warming, deforestation, and water pollution are more readily being addressed in a larger scale than ever before and it is starting at the local evel Kent E. Portney and Jeffrey M. Berry discuss in their article “ The Impact of Local Environmental Advocacy Groups on City Sustainability Policies and Programs” how American cities vary in how they pursue the idea of sustainability. They discuss that the reason why it’s so inconsistent is due to economic factors. One plausible cause of such differences is that sustainability may be more appealing to high-income cities than to more economically challenged cities. While economic factors may hold policymakers back from implementing more environmentally conscious actions and initiatives, city's nationwide have various programs, big and small, to combat the issues.
While there is no singular answer to rectifying environmental issues, teaching and training today’s you is a step in the right direction. In an article from Elisabeth Barratt Hackinga, Robert Barrattb and William Scott entitled “Engaging children: research issues around participation and environmental learning” they explore a number of issues arising from current examples of childhood environment research in the United Kingdom. It explores conceptions of childhood within the field of childhood environment research. They discovered that there are reduced opportunities for children's outdoor environmental experience. They discuss the importance of children as environmental stakeholders and how vital it is of them to get engaged.
In Catherine Walker’s article “Tomorrow’s Leaders and Today’s Agents of Change? Children, Sustainability Education and Environmental Governance” she discusses how children now play a central role in the rhetoric of environmental change. Changes are being implemented in the educational system to better encompass the idea of sustainability, and through that, make children ‘agents of change’ through this sustainability education.
Carie J. Green explores some successful methodologies used when teaching environmental responsibility to children in her research article “Toward Young Children as Active Researchers: A Critical Review of the Methodologies and Methods in Early Childhood Environmental Education”. What the article discovered was that the best way to analyze how children best learn the information presented to them was to have them actively participate in activities. Walking tours provide an alternative format to engage children in conversations. Researcher shown that to really engage students was to provide an opportunity for children to show and tell about what is important to them. Green (2014, p. 193) conducted “walking interviews “with primary school children to study their participation in developing a school garden to really get a grasp on what they were learning.
On a national level, there are several foundations and organizations seeking to improve environmental education overall in the school system. One of these national organizations is the National Environmental Education Foundation. According to their mission statement, they “seek to reach mainstream Americans who are receptive to environmental knowledge but only somewhat engaged. Our aim is to reach people where they are and inspire them to learn about their relationship to the environment and, in turn, increase their environmental engagement. With increased environmental involvement of individuals on a national scale, their actions, taken collectively, will have a tremendous environmental impact—and help bring about a cultural shift in attitudes and behaviors”. While I may take issue with their mission statement (targeting only those who are receptive already to environmental issues), they have several initiatives specifically targeting informing the youth. At the end of every April, they sponsor the annual National Environmental Education Week. A week in which the NEEF partners nationwide with educators, students, various government agencies, businesses, communities and nonprofit organizations to foster environmental learning. The NEEF also has an innovative called the Greening STEM Learning Center which gives access to various tools to be utilized by teachers and other types of educators to engage people in environmental learning with an emphasis on real world examples. Another organization that operates on a large scale is the North American Association for Environmental Education. Amongst many of their innatives and guidelines supporting environmental education, they have developed a series of guidelines through multiple publications that promote high-quality environmental education.
The Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch Library has a strong focus on environmental education. Upon interviewing Melanie Buckingham, Environmental Resources Librarian, I learned more about what she does in the way of environmental education. Mrs. Buckingham states that her job as the Environmental Resources Librarian is to plan environmental education programs for all ages. She goes on to state that they provide workshops (one for children and one for adults) which focus on nature education for young children. She also states that she has programs that bring both parents and children outside so they can be outside and explore together. The Kathleen Clay Edwards Library has several other environmentally focused programs such as their afterschool nature and gardening class as well as Citizen Science Sunday and Curious Nature Club, Both of which are designed to be outdoors, hands-on experiences. Mrs. Buckingham states that the ultimate goal of the nature programs is “…for really young children is to create that sense of wonder and curiosity and as they grow to continue adding more hands-on experiences in nature so that they learn about the animals and plants they encounter. When children feel connected to the earth, plants and animals, then they will be a sense of responsibility in their actions that impact the environment.”
With prevailing issues such as climate change, deforestation, rising sea levels, etc. more than ever before, children need to know how the environment works and what roll they play in preserving it. Children need to not only acquire the knowledge, but get the chance to apply what they know and how it affects them day to day. Over the years, people have separated themselves from the environment and have become self centered and adopted this “human first” attitude. What many don’t understand is that the health of the environment is directly attached to the health and prosperity of humans. With this aspect in mind, environmental education is key to train the younger generation to raise up and become the next, and hopefully more competent, stewards of the environment.
Portney, K. E., & Berry, J. M. (2016). The Impact of Local Environmental Advocacy Groups on City
Sustainability Policies and Programs. Policy Studies Journal, 44(2),
Hacking, E. B., Barratt, R., & Scott,
W. (2007). Engaging children: research
issues around participation and environmental learning. Environmental Education
Research, 13(4), 529-544. doi:10.1080/13504620701600271
Walker, C. (2017). Tomorrow's Leaders and Today's Agents of Change? Children,
Sustainability Education and Environmental Governance. Children & Society,
31(1), 72-83. doi:10.1111/chso.12192.
Green, C. J. (2015). Toward Young Children as Active Researchers: A Critical Review of the
Methodologies and Methods in Early Childhood Environmental Education. Journal
Of Environmental Education, 46(4), 207-229. doi:10.1080/00958964.2015.1050345
NEEF. (n.d.)., from https://www.neefusa.org/
Guidelines for Excellence: Best Practice
in EE. (2017, July 08)., from https://naaee.org/our-work/programs/guidelines-excellence