I was recently asked to create a succinct description of what Environmental Education is for my fiscal agent’s website. I looked to the “classic” UNEP 7 principles of EE and ended up with this:
“EE focuses on interactions within and among natural, built, and social environments. EE aims to develop an individual's understanding, skills and the feelings of empowerment that are necessary for both positive behavior towards the biophysical and social environment in everyday living, and for active participation in group efforts to find the optimal solutions for environmental problems.EE is interdisciplinary, and is particularly effective when direct experiential learning is utilized.”
In looking at my description, I realized that it makes EE seem complicated, cumbersome, and overwhelming—all things that are extremely unattractive to most educators. To assuage my conscience for having published something that may actually turn some people off to EE, I wanted to focus on a few ideas and programs that let you utilize “nearby nature” for simple EE experiences.
· The Children and Nature Network was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children's health and well-being. Find information on forming family nature clubs, getting involved in your local community, and a new program called “natural teacher.”
The following two examples are specific to the San Diego region, but no matter where you live you can find nearby nature.
· San Diego Canyonlands has a mission to promote, protect and restore the natural habitats in San Diego County canyons and creeks by fostering education and ongoing community involvement in stewardship and advocacy. They are a clearinghouse of canyon “friends” groups, so if your family wants to do a service activity while learning about the local environment, they can help you to connect to a nearby canyon. They can also help school sites get started on projects in nearby canyons and offer service learning credit for participation in some events.
· Visit your local parks and recreation website. The City of San Diego’s site can help you find a nearby natural area to visit.
So take the first small step toward environmental education experiences for your students, your family, and your community today. Just get outside!
--Adrienne Marriott, Coordinator
CREEC Region9a (San Diego and Imperial Counties)