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Environmental Education

Environmental education, properly understood, should constitute a comprehensive lifelong education, one responsive to changes in a rapidly changing
world. It should prepare the individual for life through an understanding of the major problems of the contemporary world, and the provision of skills
and attributes needed to play a productive role towards improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given to ethical values.

Tbilisi Declaration on Environmental Education

Kids Learning Outdoors

 

The term education means different things to different people. Families, parents, mentors, guides, homeschoolers, public and private schools might use this website with a view to education, but their aims vary widely, not to mention their views of what education should be. As with any professional field, Education grows, it experiences change and it learns from mistakes.


Outdoor Education
L.B. Sharp in 1943 was an early advocate of outdoor education suggesting that some things are best "learned through experience dealing directly with native materials and life situations outside school." In 1955 J.W. Smith started the National Outdoor Education Project through which he aimed to extend and enrich the school curriculum through outdoor experiences. Over time the concept grew to include education both in and about the outdoors, originally focusing on nature study, but today used to meet many objectives. Measuring the paving stones in a schoolyard for example, could constitute an outdoor math lesson.

Experiential Education
Experiential learning was recognized as a way of learning in the outdoors and programs soon developed which used real-world experiences to achieve their learning goals. In 1977 the field was more formally established with formation of the Association for Experiential Education (AEE).

A few AEE principles are worth noting: experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis, and the results of the learning are personal and form the basis for future learning.

 

Environmental Education
To some extent emerging from Outdoor Education this field began to form with the publication of the Journal of Environmental Education in 1969. Further events strengthened its growth, culminating in 1980 with a widely accepted statement of intent:

The super-ordinate goal of environmental education
is to aid citizens in becoming environmentally knowledgeable and, above all, skilled and dedicated citizens who are willing to work, individually and collectively, toward achieving
and/or maintaining a dynamic equilibrium
between quality of life and quality of
environment
(Hungerford et al, 1980, 44).

Now represented by the North American Association of Environmental Education, their website offers a treasure trove of community links.


Hidden Corner & Geoeducation

This project has taken an approach based upon
the notion that strong and lasting impressions take shape when at least two of the above three are combined, but especially when outdoor, experiential and environmental education work together.

The use of outdoor recreation activities such as kayaking, hiking, rambling and biking also helps combat the sedentary nature of many young lives today, especially if a mentor can guide participants through the included fitness program.

The use of nature journaling is especially important when it comes to slowing down, observing, and developing connections. There is an intimacy to be gained through the careful drawing of an outline or gentle shading of a bough. Frustration too, but the emphasis is on process and not outcome!

 

Nature interpretation is another important part of this program. Many enjoy wonder when they learn the basic little facts about a creature's existence. "Did you know that a Snowy Plover chick can run and hunt food within just three hours of being born, and that for this reason it's born with adult-length legs?" This develops appreciation and value, which in turn
can encourage behavior change.

Lastly we want to add that unstructured time for play needs to be an element in every outing. Allow time for swimming, fort-building and exploring.

A few thoughts about the process ....

On Relevancy
Relevancy comes from knowing your audience. This is the place to start.

On Presentation
Present the subject in a way that is accessible
to the audience. For this to be effective you must
know your audience. Use the appropriate tools to make the connection, for example make the subject analogous to universals such as family, love, war, joy or sorrow.

On Passion
Share your passion of the subject. Passion is contagious. If you care, others will care.

On Rapport
Build rapport and be transparent. This is the only way to gain respect and have your message hold any meaning.

(Shauna Potocky, Chief of Education,
Yosemite National Park.)