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 interdisciplinary learning.
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 projects.
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!
Want more resources?
- Sign up for The Branch: Project Learning Tree’s newsletter for lesson plans and educator tips, professional development, and grant opportunities.
- Read more about Why Environmental Education is Important
- Attend a Project Learning Tree environmental education workshop in your state, or complete an online course and receive 96 hands-on lesson plans and fun activities that meet academic standards.
- Top Ten Tips for Teaching Outside – Early Childhood, Elementary, and High School
16 comments on “Top 10 Benefits of Environmental Education”
There is over a decade of research outlining the cognitive and behavioral benefits of exposure to nature. I am interested in research that looks at the effects of nature scenes inside the classroom. In healthcare it has been documented that viewing nature scenes lowers anxiety, blood pressure, and helps with pain management. Has research been conducted to explore the use and benefits of nature scenes in the classroom? I would appreciate any light or direction you can point me in.
I’m not aware of research on this topic, but you might wish to explore the Children & Nature Network’s comprehensive database of research and studies, http://www.childrenandnature.org/research/.
I know this is a little late but here is some research that has been done about the classroom benefits of taking students with ADHD outdoors as well as how nature helps improve attention.
Here are links to the articles and their sources.
I agree with you because many people in the world do not investigate about environmental issues; so, they are unconscious about the damage they are causing to their own environtment
Environmental education provides the following:
1. It enhance the thought of peoples’ experiences
2. It enlighten people to understand their environment
3. It provides room for better living
4. It serves as an engine room in creating awareness
5. It provide aesthetic beauty
excellent.what about reasons of (EE)environmental education being a life long process???
I like what you mentioned about how environmental education encourages research, investigation, and wondering why certain things happen. I’ve heard that the majority of environmental issues arise from a lack of education. I’ll have to make sure my children are aware of the environment around them so that we can create a better world!
Excellent write up! Need of the hour is environmental awareness through environmental education
It also helps in identifying relation between environment and health.
It helps to adopt measures to be safe from environment induced diseases.
1.Solve various environment challenges
2.Plays crucial role in town planning.
3.Provide knowledge related to envi.issues
4.Provide various directives for environment
My wife and I have been considering options to help our daughter become active and healthy. We didn’t realize what a great tool environmental education was in encouraging young people to go outside and enjoy nature. What a benefit that would be for our daughter!
Glad that your provided info is beneficial related to Environment Education. I’m also an environmentalist who has spearheaded the planting of over a half a million trees in Baltimore City. We are experiencing the Power of Green Goodness.
Our mission is to stimulate social and environmental change through education on environmental and sustainability issues. we are providing youth and young adult entrepreneurship development program, based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology.
Teaching students about how their decisions impact the environment seems like a really appropriate learning activity that will help them in the long run as well. Showing students exactly what it is that will happen to an area if certain things
aren’t doing would be an enlightening experience for them and help them reduce their carbon footprint and help them increase recycling and other kinds of thrifty actions. If we start students out when they are young in doing these things then they would be much more likely to keep doing them and that could help us preserve the planet much better than we have been doing up to this point.
we are based out of AZ and have been looking to see how feasible it is to add an
ECO Learning Environment at the local Public schools. We are looking to work with others about how to go
about this. I’m addressing both Attrition/Retention with community engagement as the primary goal.
Hello I am also working on this topic as well! I am an environmental educator based out of the Midwest. At a previous job I worked part time at a STEM school helping get their students outdoors for all classes and train teachers to teach outdoors. Project Learning Tree is a great program with a lot of activities that can help your teachers take students outdoors but if you are looking for more check out Project Wild, Project Wet, Beetles, the EPA, and the National Wildlife Federation’s activities for students. I am just getting started with my own stuff but feel free to look me up as well!
I love how you said that environmental education is a great way to do hands-on learning that is interactive and helps to increase creativity. This seems like a great school idea for kids who can’t focus really well in a normal classroom. That way they can be out doing something and enjoying themselves while learning as well!
Comments are closed.