The North American Association for Environmental Education’s (NAAEE) Guidelines for Excellence within Environmental Education (EE) addresses the importance of EE:
‘Environmental education recognizes the importance of viewing the environment within the context of human influences, incorporating an examination of economics, culture, political structure and social equity as well as natural processes and systems.’
The goal of EE that is incorporated into the mission of Beaver Ponds is to develop environmentally literate citizens. But what does this mean? And why is it important? EE provides tools that will be critical in addressing issues of the environment – critical thinking, problem solving, information management, creative thinking, and positive communication skills. EE provides a core for us to build from which will enable individuals to approach challenges in a comprehensive and thought provoking manner. It encourages learners to understand and make connections with their surroundings. Once you can establish a tie to your immediate surroundings then EE will help to build upon that by raising awareness, building knowledge and skills which allows us to then connect with understanding larger systems and larger issues. Individuals will develop a more sophisticated comprehension of cause and effect, and intimate connections with the world that surrounds us.
This skill development will allow stewards to foster skills and habits that will experience lifelong use. EE builds the capacity of learning to empower individuals to problem solve independently and as part of a group. What many people do not understand is that this skill building creates advantages that not only positively affect the environment, but that can be used to approach any subject from a more logical and literate viewpoint. The four main skillsets environmentally literate stewards employ are:
- Questioning, analysis, and interpretation skills
- Knowledge of environmental processes and systems
- Skills for understanding and addressing environmental issues
- Personal and civic responsibility
Environmental education should incorporate 5 main characteristics with their materials in support of these skillsets:
- Fairness and accuracy – this includes the diversity of perspectives when approaching any issue
- Depth – this is the understanding of concepts at varying levels
- Emphasis on skills building – the development of lifelong skills
- Action orientation – promotion of civic responsibility and teaching learners how to apply their knowledge and skills to approaching issues and problem solving
- Instructional soundness – instructional techniques that will create a hands on, effective learning environment
Learners will have the ability to synthesize knowledge and experience across any discipline or subject. This is vital in today’s world. If we do not start approaching the world differently we will not have a world to approach.