You are EE! Environmental education (EE) is an organized effort to empower people and communities to work together towards a more sustainable future through education about how the natural environment functions, and how humans can manage their behavior to live sustainably.
Environmental education teaches the public about current and past environmental issues and and provides citizens with unbiased facts. Environmental education engages citizen’s critical thinking skills and empowers them to make sound decisions to change behavior and cultural processes.
While environmental education is utilized in a variety of disciplines including geography, biology, chemistry natural sciences, earth science and more, it is not limited to subject matter in the sciences. Graphic design, history, the arts, and recreation subject areas often use environmental education to engage people in their natural world in an effort to teach about environmental issues.
Environmental education is not about advocacy for a particular viewpoint or lobbying. While those are valuable forms of communication, environmental education ensures unbalanced and fact-based information and practitioners strive to examine both sides of issues in search of solutions.
Environmental education strives to reach and engage a culturally and economically diverse audience, learning from others about how they see and live in the natural world. Underserved audiences face unique environmental challenges. Environmental education promotes diversity and inclusion, and we seek transparent and respectful interactions with all.
Environmental education is for learners of ALL ages, from early childhood to seniors. Environmental education does not just happen in a formal classroom setting —
- EE is practiced by life-long learners who seek to expand their knowledge base about the natural world
- EE is enjoyed by visitors of public programs at parks and other natural settings
- EE is utilized by journalists who engage the public in accurate and unbiased information about environmental issues
- EE is practiced by researchers who regularly communicate with the public
EE also advances the development of environmental and science education standards—from climate change to the Next Generation Science Standards to STEM.
Environmental Education Myths & Facts
EE is Only for Formal School Teachers.
Anyone who educates others about the environment or our natural resources, in alignment with the key pillars of EE, is considered an environmental educator.
EE is Only for Youth Under the Age of 18.
EE focuses on lifelong learning, to educate learners of all ages—from early childhood to seniors—about nature and how to live sustainably.
EE Advocates a Particular Viewpoint.
EE presents both sides of an issue and encourages learners to make sound decisions using critical thinking skills.
EE is Based on Opinions.
Environmental educators simply provide unbiased information based in science and research rather than inserting their own opinions or invoking emotion.
Who Practices Environmental Education?
Anyone, of any age, who educates others about the environment and our natural resources OR uses these as a tool for engaging others in learning—in such a way that is in alignment with the key pillars of EE—is considered an environmental educator. Environmental education does not only happen in science classrooms and is more than just information about the environment—it happens every day in non-formal and informal educational settings and interactions, driven by others or by oneself. While formal educators have powerful opportunities to use EE to teach every student who comes through their school doors, the value of learning from other sources by experiencing our natural world through critical thinking and self-reflection is of equal importance.
Environmental educators work with businesses to educate managers, employees, and vendors about environmental, health, and economic issues. They are facilitators of citizen science programs to help people understand the scientific process and use the data to help protect species, habitat, communities, and ecological processes. They are professors in universities who train the next generation of teachers, environmental professionals, business leaders, and others. They work with journalists to tell the story about the value of environmental education and with decision makers to advocate for environmental education. They work hand-in-hand with conservation professionals to help engage people and communities in finding solutions to conservation issues—from loss of biodiversity to climate change. And they work with health professionals who educate doctors, nurses, and other health professionals about the critical link between health and environment and how to increase time in nature to address health issues. They are naturalists helping to connect more people to nature and build stewardship values that last a lifetime.
Here in Arizona, You Can Find Environmental Educators Working in / as:
- Botanical gardens like the Desert Botanical Garden
- Arboreta like the Arboretum at Flagstaff and the University of Arizona
- State and County governmental agencies like the Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Department of Transportation, and Department of Environmental Quality
- Utility providers such as Salt River Project (SRP)
- Attractions like the Phoenix Zoo
- Public parks such as those operated by county agencies like Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation
- Wildlife biologists, ornithologists, botanists, and conservation managers
- Non-governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations focused on natural resources like the Arizona Master Naturalist Association or the Tucson Mission Garden
- Public and private universities as faculty and staff
- Publishers and journalists such as those at Green Living Magazine
- Ecologically responsible business leaders focused on sustainability and environmental impact
- LEED Architects & Landscape Architects
Use the magnifying glass icons above to zoom in or out of the timeline. You can also drag the timeline from side to side and select specific events directly.
Timeline Source: NAAEE » eeLEARN » Module 2: The History of EE » Lesson 2: Timeline of EE History
To Learn More About Environmental Education, Check Out These Resources:
Learn more about environmental education (EE) and why EE matters from the North American Association for Environmental Education.
eeLEARN is a series of online learning modules exploring the foundations of environmental education.
Learn more about environmental education (EE) from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is a leading EE organization dedicated to lifelong environmental learning.
The NAAEE National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education has developed a series of guidelines that set the standards for high-quality EE.
A framework guide for developers of large-scale state, national and international assessments of environmental literacy.
A collection of resources, perspectives, and examples to help environmental educators learn more about the field of EE, access resources, and gain skills.
UNESCO’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development builds on the long-term concern for issues related to environmental education and sustainability.