The Environmental Education Imperative

May 21, 2020 by Beth Seibel

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This quote by Albert Einstein embodies several of the key components of environmental education including awareness and sensitivity; knowledge and understanding; attitudes of concern; skills and participation according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA defines environmental education as, “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.”

There are countless studies that reveal the importance of environmental education for all ages. But, specifically for children, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) cite an array of critical benefits to the development of children and our communities.

Improves academic achievement: Research supports that environmental education and outdoor exploratory activities raises students’ motivation and attitudes toward learning. Not only do students learn about the natural world but learning improved in an array of topics including science, math, reading, writing and more.

Improves critical thinking and problem solving skills: “Environment-based education emphasizes specific critical thinking skills central to “good science”—questioning, investigating, forming hypotheses, interpreting data, analyzing, developing conclusions, and solving problems (NEEF, 2020).”

Improves creativity: Students become more creative when collaborating with others to solve problems. Also, combining art instruction with lessons about the natural world enhances a deeper appreciation and ability in each area.

Improves overall happiness and well-being: “Connectedness with nature is comprised of three components: information about nature, experience in nature, and committed nature connectedness. Environmental education is essential in introducing, strengthening, and fortifying these components in peoples’ lives. Through EE, individuals that have high nature connectedness experience many physiological, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual benefits (NEEF, 2020).”

Improves communities: Often environmental education activities revolve around improving landscape, streamside restoration or any number of service-oriented projects. “When stewardship education is place-based and takes place in one’s local community, it can develop young people’s sense of the public realm more broadly and their stake in the natural environment and their communities (NEEF, 2020).”
These are just a few of the many benefits that make environmental education vital for the participants and their communities.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is dedicated to providing the highest quality environmental education to our communities. Through its array of educational programs delivered by experienced naturalist educators at the Frick Environmental Center and beyond, people of all ages have the opportunity to connect with nature and experience the many benefits of environmental education.
While we are anxious to return to our normal in-person program offerings and events, until then we are pleased to offer a variety of digital education and nature resources with Parks on the Go.

And, remember, your Pittsburgh parks are open to explore and enjoy. Please practice the safety guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and get out in to nature and take in all the benefits it has to offer.


References
Albert Einstein Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_151946

Benefits of Environmental Education. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.neefusa.org/education/benefits#improves

Blatt, D, S., Tsevreni, Birdsall, Bodzin, Schneller, … Flowers AB. (2020, February 4). The Benefits of Environmental Education for K-12 Students. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://naaee.org/eepro/research/eeworks/student-outcomes

What is Environmental Education? (2018, November 5). Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/education/what-environmental-education