The roots of environmental education in Arizona began informally in the 1970s as the Arizona Association for Learning in and about the Environment (AALE). In 1980, AALE officially registered as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. From its beginning, AALE worked to advance environmental literacy within Arizona and provide support in the form of professional development for environmental educators across the entire state. AALE accomplished much of its work through a series of educational conferences and planning sessions which increased the level of excellence in teaching methods in environmental education (EE).
In 2000, AALE rebranded as the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE), and reshaped its vision to strengthen its place as a leader in advancing environmental education throughout the state of Arizona. A Board of Directors was established, and the organization created the first online library of resources for environmental educators in the state. While developing the website, AAEE continued to host professional development opportunities in the form of statewide conferences and collaborative regional workshops.
In 2009, AAEE brought together the best and brightest in the field to begin plans for a statewide environmental literacy plan that will establish a framework for quality environmental education to be integrated into primary and secondary schools. This plan will be executed by adopting the Arizona Framework for Environmental Concepts and Themes (AFECT), which correlates environmental education concepts with the Arizona State Academic Standards.
In 2010, AAEE began a pilot program to establish the first cohort of certified EE professionals in the state of Arizona to support the environmental literacy plan through the creation of a network of highly-qualified, certified environmental educators. By the end of 2016, over 40 environmental education professionals had been certified AAEE.
In 2016, the Environmental Literacy Strategy Working Group of AAEE held its inaugural summit, where 30 organizations came together to discuss environmental literacy in Arizona. AAEE has also revamped its website to offer its members an extensive number of environmental education resources, which included environmental education job postings and members-only forums.