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Research and Data

Peer-reviewed research reveals that environmental education and outdoor experiences can improve student learning and behavior. It has also been shown to aid students with learning disabilities. Time spent outdoors benefits adults in similar ways. We encourage the use of the following information in articles, grant-writing or other research.

Environmental Education Research Organizations

The following organizations conduct, promote and support research related to the benefits of environmental education and outdoor learning environments.

National Environmental Education Foundation
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is a non-profit organization that advances environmental education through learning-oriented solutions to environmental problems.

The Children & Nature Network "Research & Resources"
C&NN has a premier set of research studies to help us all understand the connection between nature and the healthy development of children.

Natural Learning Initiative
The Natural Learning Initiative is a Research and Design Assistance Program of the College of Design at North Carolina State University. Its mission is to help communities create stimulating places for play, learning, and environmental education.

Landscape and Human Health Laboratory
The LHHL at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a multidisciplinary research laboratory dedicated to studying the connection between greenery and human health.

EE Research News

Read recent articles and research about the benefits of environmental education and outdoor learning.

eeResearch Links

Selected Studies and Papers

A selection of notable and well-known studies.

Is Green Education Blue or Red? State-Level Environmental Education Program Development Through the Lens of Red- and Blue-State Politics Richard Craig Crouch and Dorian S. Abbot (2009)

Place-Based Education Evaluation Collaborative - Quantifying a Relationship Between Place-based Learning and Environmental Quality EPA-funded study shows that environmental education programs can measurably improve environmental quality.

Natural Learning Initiative Research and Projects Located within the N.C. State University School of Design, the NLI provides research, technical assistance and case studies on natural outdoor playspaces.

Significant Life Experiences: A New Research Area in Environmental Education Thomas Tanner (1980)
This often-cited study provides evidence that those in conservation-related careers had positive, frequent experiences in nature. Tanner suggests that effective EE that gets children outside is essential to a sustainable future.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning Gerald A. Lieberman and Linda L. Hoody, State Education and Environment Roundtable

Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings. Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2001) Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54-77. (Scroll down to the bottom for access to the paper--download is free but they do ask that you tell them your organization and purpose for downloading.)

Is love of nature in the US becoming love of electronic media? 16-year downtrend in national park visits explained by watching movies, playing video games, internet use, and oil prices Oliver R.W. Pergamsa, Patricia A. Zaradicbn (2006) More about their work and research since the study at

Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon Balmford, Clegg, Coulson and Taylor (2002)
Survey of UK School Children revealed they could identify more "species" of Pokémon characters than species of native UK wildlife.


Young girl
Age Appropriate EE

One of the hallmarks of quality environmental education is content that is age and developmentally appropriate for the audience. David Sobel of Antioch University New England is widely respected for his work in this area, which is addressed in the first article excerpt and video. We've also included some other articles and opinion pieces that address this important topic.

Beyond Ecophobia, David Sobel

Global Climate Change Meets EcoPhobia, David Sobel

Nurturing Children's Biophilia: Developmentally Appropriate Environmental Education for Young Children, Randy White and Vicki L. Stoecklin, White Hutchinson Leisure and Learning Group, 2008

Natural Wonders: A Guide to Early Childhood for Environmental Educators, Minnesota Early Childhood Environmental Education Consortium, 2002

Save The Elephants: Don’t Buy Ivory Soap This thought-provoking piece by Katie Slivovsky was originally presented at the 2001 AZA Docents Conference, and also appeared in the "My Turn" section of NewsWeek in 2004. It addresses many of the issues surrounding age-appropriate EE.

Outdoor Learning for Early Childhood

Helpful ideas and research on outdoor learning environments.

Our friends at the Natural Learning Initiative at N.C. State University specialize in outdoor learning environments and have a wealth of information and resources.

Making the Most of Outdoor Time with Preschool Children, NC Cooperative Extension

Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale (POEMS), NC Cooperative Extension

Outdoor Play: Combating Sedentary Lifestyles, by Betsy Thigpen in Sept. 2007 issue of Zero to Three

Cite Your Sources...

Writing an article, grant or position paper on environmental education or the benefits of outdoor experiences? There's a wealth of information out there to pull from, but citing peer-reviewed research backs up your statements and is essential to making a good argument.

To find research and data you can use, see our eeResearch feed above.

The Children and Nature Network has published Children’s Nature Deficit: What We Know – and Don’t Know (compiled by Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., and Richard Louv) which provides statistics and references to numerous studies and research.

In addition, the National Trails Training Partnership has this helpful page: Research-Based Indicators of Nature Deficit

NTT has combed the studies on the Children & Nature Network research pages and lists brief quotes from several cited sources. You can find the referenced studies on the C&NN Annotated Bibliography page.