About Environmental Education

What is Environmental Education?

Environmental education is a process that helps people learn more about the natural systems we all depend on, and understand what we must do to interact responsibly with our environment and safeguard natural resources for future generations.  Watch the NAAEE video below to learn more.

Good Education

Environmental education is good education; EE uses learner-centered instruction, emphasizes critical thinking skills, and is interdisciplinary.  Experts at Stanford University systematically analyzed 119 peer-reviewed studies published over a 20-year period that measured the impacts of environmental education for K-12 students. Studies in the review demonstrated that environmental education has led to a number of positive impacts, from improving academic performance, to enhancing critical thinking skills, to developing personal growth and life-building skills including confidence, autonomy, and leadership. In addition, a number of the studies showed that environmental education increased civic engagement and positive environmental behaviors.  

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Why is EE so vital to our future?

People’s well-being is interconnected with the well-being of natural systems.   We face increasingly complex challenges—from climate change and loss of species to decreasing access to nature, a growing gap between the haves and have nots, and other threats to our health, security, and future survival. Environmental education equips people, communities, and organizations with knowledge, skills, and motivation to make informed decisions about how they can address those challenges. 

Where does EE take place? 

Environmental education works best when it happens in many different places and spaces, because this lets people build concepts and make connections over time. Some environmental education happens in formal learning settings, like schools and universities, or settings designed for environmental education, like outdoor classrooms or schools. Some happens in places where people encounter nature: parks, zoos, beaches, aquariums, or nature centers.  Some happens in places that support hands-on, practical experience: laboratories, summer camps, after school programs, museums – and even boardrooms. 

Who provides EE?  

Natural systems are complex – living creatures, the physical surroundings, weather patterns, and, of course, people. So, environmental education can take place in virtually any subject discipline, from anthropology to zoology. Likewise, environmental educators work with learners across the lifespan: early childhood educators, elementary and high school teachers, camp counselors, university professors. They are the faces of many types of organizations: from afterschool programs to state and federal agencies. Some environmental educators are what we all tend to picture as “teachers,” but they also might be naturalists, scientists, park rangers, and many others. 

EE and You

We are all environmental educators in some way, shape, or form.  The wide variety of EE providers and many different ways EE is provided creates opportunities for the citizens of Colorado to explore their connection to the natural world in many settings and ways. Yet it is not necessary to be part of an organization or formal program to participate in or support EE or to help advance environmental literacy in Colorado. Individuals who share information and ideas about what they have learned can make a real difference. Those who help fund projects and programs make critical contributions. Those who model environmentally responsible choices and actions are especially influential in moving our community toward environmental literacy.