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What Is EE?

 

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Environmental education is fundamental to not only education, but to the greater society. But what do I mean by that? In our interconnected 21st Century world, it's more important than ever to learn about the interconnectivity of the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the lithosphere, the geosphere and the anthrosphere...Dr. Joseph Kerski, geographer and education director at Esri.

Learning about the environment, but much more...

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The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs aligns our work with the definitions of environmental education from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the North American Association for Environmental Education:

Environmental education (EE) teaches children and adults how to learn about and investigate their environment, and to make intelligent, informed decisions about how they can take care of it. (NAAEE, What is Environmental Education?)

Environmental education does not advocate a particular viewpoint or course of action. Rather, environmental education teaches individuals how to weigh various sides of an issue through critical thinking and it enhances their own problem-solving and decision-making skills. (U.S. EPA, Environmental Education and Literacy)

The components of environmental education are:

Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges
Knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges
Attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality
Skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges
Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges

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Key Characteristics of Environmental Education

  • Relates to environmental topics or issues
  • Uses the outdoors as a learning environment
  • Is a lifelong learning process
  • Is interdisciplinary and draws upon many fields of study and learning
  • Is relevant to the needs, interests and motivations of the learner
  • Is based on accurate and factual information
  • Presents information in a balanced, unbiased manner
  • Inspires critical thinking and decision-making
  • Motivates people to take responsible action
  • Improves learner achievement and outcomes

    From: Best Practices for Environmental Education: Guidelines for Success. Environmental Education
    Council of Ohio. p. 5. Meredith, J., D. Cantrell, and M. Conner. 2000.

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The Case for Environmental Education

The desired outcome of environmental education is environmental literacy. Environmental education strives to provide learners with sound scientific information and the vital skills of problem solving, critical thinking and decision-making. The National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education noted that “in the coming decades, the public will more frequently be called upon to understand complex environmental issues, assess risk, evaluate proposed environmental plans and understand how individual decisions affect the environment at local and global scales. Creating a scientifically informed citizenry requires a concerted, systematic approach to environmental education.”

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EE In the Classroom...

In the classroom, environmental education takes its cue from children's natural curiosity about animals, plants and other elements of nature. Research reveals that using the environment as a context for learning can increase student performance on standardized measurements of academic achievement in science, math and other subjects, and may reduce discipline and classroom management problems as well. In addition, environmental education is often credited with reaching students who do not perform well in the traditional classroom. In North Carolina, environmental education programs have a long history of supporting science, social studies and other classroom essential standards.

See our EE Research and Data page for peer-reviewed research on the academic benefits of EE.

...and Beyond

As much, or even more, of the environmental education in North Carolina occurs outside of the traditional classroom--in nature centers, museums, parks, forests, fields and beaches. Environmental education also benefits adult learners in the workplace and in the community. Our North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program is an excellent example of this, as enrollees represent a diverse sampling of individuals in the public and private sectors. All individuals in the program must complete a community partnership project, and many credit the program with enhancing their career and community activities.

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What others are saying...

Environmental education is fundamental to not only education, but to the greater society. But what do I mean by that? In our interconnected 21st Century world, it's more important than ever to learn about the interconnectivity of the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the lithosphere, the geosphere and the anthrosphere...
-
Dr. Joseph Kerski, geographer and education director at Esri. Watch Dr. Kerski's brief video on the importance of outdoor education and EE.

Environmental education better assures learning opportunities that will provide all people the knowledge and skills to make economically, environmentally and socially equitable decisions, regardless of their chosen profession. Clearly business hopes to attract and retain a diverse work force equipped with these skills.
Cynthia Georgeson, currently VP for communications worldwide at Johnson Outdoors, in Business must recognize, support environmental education, Milwaukee Business Journal

We often forget that all education is environmental education - by what we include or exclude, we teach the young that they are part of or apart from the natural world. An economist for example, who fails to connect our economic life with that of ecosystems and the biosphere has taught an environmental lesson all right, but one that is dead wrong. Our goal as educators ought to be to help students understand their implicatedness in the world and to honor mystery.
-Dr. David Orr, noted author and Paul Sears Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College

An environmentally sustainable business is just good business, given the growing concern for environmental problems across America. A key component of an environmentally sustainable business is a highly educated workforce, particularly involving environmental principles.
-Charles O. Holliday Jr., chairman and former CEO of DuPont

Distinction between environmental education and environmental information

Environmental Education

•Increases public awareness and knowledge of environmental issues
•Does teach individuals critical-thinking
•Does enhance individuals' problem-solving and decision-making skills
•Does not advocate a particular viewpoint

Environmental Information

•Provides facts or opinions about environmental issues
•Does not necessarily teach individuals critical-thinking
•Does not necessarily enhance individuals' problem-solving and decision-making skills
•May advocate a particular viewpoint

(U.S. EPA, Environmental Education and Literacy)