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What is 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.

EE is taught in traditional classrooms, in communities, and in settings like nature centers, museums, parks, and zoos. Learning about the environment involves many subjects—earth science, biology, chemistry, social studies, even math and language arts—because understanding how the environment works, and keeping it healthy, involves knowledge and skills from many disciplines.

EE works best when it is taught in an organized sequence. In schools, EE often reflects state and national learning standards. "Done right," EE not only leads to environmentally literate people, but also helps increase student academic achievement.

Environmentally literate* persons know:

• That their daily choices affect the environment,

• How those choices can help or harm the environment, and

• What they need to do—individually or as part of a community—to keep the environment healthy and sustain

its resources, so that people enjoy a good quality of life for themselves and their children.

Environmental literacy* promotes human health:

• Clean air reduces the incidence of asthma and certain cancers.

• Clean water prevents infectious diseases.>

• Sustainable farming means nutrient-rich soil and healthier food for everyone.

What do environmentally literate* people do? Environmentally literate people act on their beliefs. This might mean:

• Buying "green" products for the household

• Using natural alternatives to pesticides—like marigolds—to protect gardens

• Attending community meetings to discuss complex issues like whether to build a new stadium, rehab the old one, or use the land in an altogether new way such as for public parks or playgrounds.

Text used with the permission of the EETAP3, EPA’s National Environmental Education Training Program, 2005-2011

*A detailed description of the competencies, knowledge, dispositions and behaviors that lead to environmental literacy was produced by a NSF-funded NAAEE project in 2011. Click here to see the project’s products.

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