Environmental Education connects us to the world around us, teaching us about both natural and built environments. Environmental Education 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, Environmental Education has many benefits for young people and the communities they live in.
Imagination and enthusiasm are heightened
Environmental Education is hands-on, interactive learning that sparks the imagination and unlocks creativity. When Environmental Education 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 Environmental Education offer opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom, it enables students to make connections and apply their learning in the real world. Environmental Education helps learners see the interconnectedness of social, ecological, economic, cultural, and political issues.
Critical and creative thinking skills are enhanced
Environmental Education 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, Environmental Education helps foster a new generation of informed consumers, workers, as well as policy or decision makers.
Tolerance and understanding are supported
Environmental Education encourages students to investigate varying sides of issues to understand the full picture. It promotes tolerance of different points of view and different cultures.
Healthy lifestyles are encouraged
Environmental Education 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 Environmental Education and stress is reduced due to increased time spent in nature.
Communities are strengthened
Environmental Education 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 improve the environment
Environmental Education 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.
Students and teachers are empowered
Environmental Education 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. Environmental Education helps teachers build their own environmental knowledge and teaching skills.
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Susan Toth has been teaching Environmental Education programs for over thirty years to audiences ranging from elementary school age children to senior citizens. She is Director of Education at Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Center and also serves as adjunct faculty for the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point teaching Theory and Practice.