The Benefit of Experiential Environmental Education

As a former teacher in the public-school system, there was never enough time to get to some of the wonderful topics we want to share with our children. Whether it's a new science discovery, an important current event, or an extension to just what happened yesterday, we as teachers, strive to incorporate any new content into our lessons. This is where awareness, empowerment, and critical thinking can inspire student learning, from preschool to high school.

To quote Vanessa Bullwinkle, Director of Communications & Marketing at Project Learning Tree, speaking about environmental education,

"We help students learn how to think, not what to think, about complex environmental issues.  This helps young people learn the problem-solving skills they need to make informed choices about the environment."

This learning and thinking process is invaluable in every subject, and every decision in day to day life. That is, to think about your thinking, or metacognition. Some do this automatically, others need to be taught. Our goal, as educators, is to teach our children to be thinkers.

Let's just watch the engagement of children as they dig in a garden, pollinate a flower, feel a sequoia tree, look closely at an insect, or watch and listen to a bird. These are just a few factors we expose our children to  at Reeves-Reed Arboretum and what families can enjoy every season every day. You don't have to be trained or even knowledgeable to be a "Citizen Scientist," you just must be interested.

Here, is a list that summarizes the "Benefits of Environmental Education" as shared by

Environmental Education Benefits Students by...
• Improving Academic Achievement. EE improves test scores by providing students with engaging lessons about the natural world that can be applied to all subject areas and grades.
• Breaking the Indoor Habit. EE offers an antidote to the plugged-in lives of today's generation, which is the first to grow up indoors. Children who experience school grounds or play areas with diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of good nutrition, more creative, and more civil to one another.
• Improving Student Health. EE gets students outdoors and active and helps to address common health issues in children today, such as obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression.
• Supporting STEM. EE offers an engaging platform for gaining and applying knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
• Meeting 21st Century Needs. EE emphasizes skills essential for succeeding in tomorrow's world, such as questioning, investigating, defining problems, analyzing, interpreting, reasoning, developing conclusions, and solving problems.
• Cultivating Leadership Qualities. EE emphasizes cooperative learning with others, critical thinking and discussion, and a focus on action strategies with real-world applications.
• Improving Focus and Cognition. EE increases the ability of students to focus and improves their cognitive abilities. Children with attention-deficit disorder also benefit from more exposure to nature–the greener a child's everyday environment, the more manageable are their symptoms.

Even at a very young age, educators have noticed the above developed in children when exposed to a diverse educational experience. Those children that are well traveled, exposed to literature or maps, involved in home gardening, or have visited local nature centers, have keenly developed a love and enthusiasm of learning, and want to know more. We all know a few.

The research is available about the value of students optimizing experiences while learning, and the retention of a hands-on activity versus rote learning. I invite you to continue to educate yourself regarding the many values of what we call "Experiential Environmental Education"

Here are a few:

Why Environmental Education is Important

Benefits of Environmental Education

Are You "Nature Smart?" How to Awaken Naturalistic Intelligence in Children

How Outdoor Education Can Prepare Students for the Future

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better" -Albert Einstein