Friday, May 17, 2013

The New Environmental Education is Good for All of Us

We are always on the lookout for news and commentary on environmental education. This piece caught our eye and we thought it warranted a feature in News Tips. Andy Hart is the executive director of the Nevada Outdoor School. Andy begins:

Twenty years ago, the term Environmental Education left a sour taste in most people’s mouths.  Perhaps it still does for some, but it shouldn’t.  Most everyone in my current profession will agree that Environmental Education hasn’t always been done well and in the 1980’s and 90’s, even when it was; the term had been hijacked in popular culture by agenda-based organizations and lobbying groups. 

Moreover, anything accompanied by the word environmental was often assumed to indicate a negative for industry, agriculture or progress in general.  It is long overdue for us to recommit to the word ‘environment’ for what it really is, the space in which we all live and rely upon as an endless provider. Read the rest of Andy's opinion piece in the Silver Pinyon Journal. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The EE Grants Page Pays Off Again (and Again and Again)

We recently received great news that two organizations applied for and were awarded grants they found on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs EE Grants page. It's an honor to help great organizations and agencies locate grants that further environmental education and help their communities. Please let us know if you receive a grant you found on our website or email listserv. 

Kendyll Collins, environmental educator and outreach coordinator for the Bald Head Island Conservancy recently announced they had received Outdoor Nation's Paddle Nation Grant. The Conservancy was one of only 25 projects in the nation to receive the grant and the only recipient in North Carolina. It will fund the Women Paddling Into Science project that will offer kayaking expeditions for month and daughter pairs over a seven month period. The trips will focus on kayaking skills, estuary ecology and water quality. It will also involve a salt marsh clean-up. Congratulations Kendyll!

Kendyll doing some early scouting for their upcoming Women Paddling Into Science Program, funded by a grant they found on the EE Grants page. 

Leslie Van Hoy, grants director for Johnston Community College, also learned of the National Wildlife Federation's Tree Bank program through our site. The college was able to use this program to continue the long leaf pine restoration at its Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center. This is the second grant JCC has found an applied for from our page. The first, from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, allowed the JCC Arboretum to plant a working fruit orchard to provide produce for local food charities. 

Volunteers plant long leaf pine seedlings at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center. The  trees were provided by the National Wildlife Federations Tree Bank Program that Johnston Community College learned of on the EE  Grants page.

Alexander Wilson Elementary E.C.O. Campus Opening Featured on News 14 Carolina

On Earth Day, Alexander Wilson Elementary (Alamance-Burlington School System) officially cut the ribbon on its new E.C.O Campus. Time Warner Cable News 14 Carolina was on the scene:

Click photo to view the video
The E.C.O. (Educating Children Outdoors) Campus features a butterfly garden, a frog habitat, a nature trail, a bird sanctuary, an air quality monitoring station and an outdoor classroom. The school also plans to use more native plants on campus, increase on-site recycling and several other conservation initiatives.

Alexander Wilson is listed as one of the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs   "EE Schools."   Follow the link to learn more and to find out how other schools can apply.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Remember: Love of Nature Precedes Caring for the Environment

This post written by Mariah Grant originally appeared on our EcoSmart Parent blog, but we thought out EE News Tips readers would also find it of interest. EcoSmart Parent (always available on provides information and N.C. environmental education events and resources of interest to parents, caregivers and educators of younger children.

Remember: Love of Nature Precedes Caring for the Environment

Source: Nature Explorers
Given pressing environmental concerns, we have to remind ourselves not to relay these world burdens to impressionable young children. It is during early childhood that experiences form the values and attitudes about the world that children carry with them through life. Before a certain age, children are unable to think in abstract terms but rather learn through sensory engagement with the world. Allowing open-ended, interactive and sensory play in natural settings is recommended for young children. This is more likely to nurture a positive relationship with nature and foster empathy for the environment than trying to relay knowledge of environmental systems. Presenting problems about the environment that are beyond their cognitive ability can cause children to develop fear and anxiety of the natural world, exactly the opposite of the intended effect.

The appropriate age for imparting knowledge about environmental systems and concerns depends entirely on the individual, but most research says not until at least fourth grade or even middle school. Here is a good article that summarizes much of the research:

Source: "Forts, land trusts, and conservation behavior"
In the past, environmental education programs have received criticism for providing education too early on abstract concepts such as endangered species, acid rain and rainforest destruction. Among the network of educators and environmental education centers in North Carolina, the research has been so widely distributed that most have adopted the age appropriate perspective into their practices.

Quality environmental education events for children that focus on exploration and discovery of the natural world help foster a love of nature in children. Good examples of these types of programs can be found on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' calendar.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Connecting environmental education and STEM

This year's theme for National Environmental Education Week was "Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors." This is part of a multi-year "Greening STEM" focus by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to show that hands-on environmental education projects can enrich learning in science, technology, engineering and math education. 

Recently, Jennifer Tabola, senior director of education for NEEF, was featured in following guest blog for Change the Equation, a "nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning in the United States." 

Here it is below, reprinted in its entirety with permission from Change the Equation and NEEF. 

What are the learning goals of environmental education? How are they best accomplished? How do they support the broader goals of improving students’ STEM skills?

Students have an innate curiosity – even wonder – about the natural world around them. Environmental education (EE) taps into their enthusiasm and provides them the knowledge and skills to solve 21st-century challenges. Early connection with the environment also equips students to make everyday decisions that improve the quality of their lives and the health of our planet.
The goals of EE can be accomplished well through project-based learning and hands-on exploration of the outdoors. Local, place-based environmental projects provide relevant learning experiences for students and an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their communities.
Through EE, students learn not only STEM content, but also develop the critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills that are critical for success in STEM careers where substantial growth is expected. Further, studies indicate that young people who experience the natural world and have more opportunities to play and learn within it are more likely to choose science or related fields as careers.

What are the opportunities and obstacles to introducing students to environmental education?

While field trips and opportunities to explore nature centers and other nonformal education settings are valuable to sparking interest and deeper knowledge about the environment, lack of time and resources can make it challenging for teachers to provide those opportunities. Increasingly, schools are investing in enriching the more accessible laboratories for learning that exist right outside the classroom door, in a nearby park, the schoolyard, school garden -- even the school building itself. Recognizing the national priority on successfully engaging more students in STEM, significantly more environmental science content is being integrated across multiple disciplines. There are expanded opportunities within the new Next Generation Science Standards to emphasize science learning through an environmental context, through content on human impacts on the natural world.

What do policymakers and decision makers need to know when thinking about STEM learning and environmental education?

Research and survey findings indicate young people have a strong interest in the environment. Total employment in STEM jobs is expected to increase by twice as much as all other jobs by 2018 and environmental science jobs are expected to grow by 25% by 2016 – the fastest among the sciences. Sources and additional statistics can be found in the new Tech & Our Planet infographic.
In 2011 the U.S. Department of Education developed the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award, which honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates STEM, civic skills and green career pathways. This year, as part of National Environmental Education Week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan did a PSA that speaks to the important connection between EE and STEM.(See previous post)