“As a result of the curriculum initiative, education officials found that students felt hopeless and disempowered. The problems were seemingly so widespread and beyond their control that the students tended to turn away from, rather than face up to, participating in local attempts at problem-solving.”
When adult environmentalists were asked about formative childhood experiences, the majority said they were motivated by experiences outdoors or learning about nature from older family members. Studying the environment in school, witnessing habitat destruction and pollution, and having religious convictions were less powerful motivators.
Louise Chawla, "Learning to Love the Natural World Enough to Protect It," 2006.
The value of project-based learning (PBL) in high-poverty communities has been revealed in research that shows participation in PBL can improve performance in academic areas compared to a control group that received traditional classroom instruction.
Nell Duke and Anne-Lise Halvorsen, "The Impact of Project-Based Learning on Student Achievement," 2017.
Misalignment between learners' lived experiences and the way environmental education is taught can result in passivity and detachment.
Albert Zyer and Elin Kelsey, "Environmental Education in a Cultural Context," International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education (pp.206-212), 2013.
Project-based learning (PBL) was found to positively affect environmental attitudes. Students said PBL helped them gain confidence solving problems and contributed to "permanent learning."
Murat Ginc, "The Project-based Learning Approach in Environmental Education," International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 24(2):105-117, Dec. 2014.
Research on how children learn science led to the design of a three dimensional approach that engages children in use of science and engineering practices, making sense of core ideas, and understanding connections between those ideas.
National Academies, "Framework for K-12 Science Education," 2011.
"Building a National Movement: Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities," a report from the Children and Nature Network, makes the case that children's health and academic performance are improved when they learn outdoors.
Outdoor spaces can be assets for learning during the COVID-19 pandemic Green SchoolyardsAmerica, Ten Strands, Lawrence Hall of Science, BEETLES.
Childhood experiences exploring "wild" nature through hiking, camping, and hunting - and, to a lesser extent, domestic nature experiences such as gardening - had the highest correlation to pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes in adulthood. Surprisingly, both in-school and out-of-school environmental education experiences were found to have no correlation to future environmental attitudes or behaviors.
Nancy Wells and Kristi Lekies, "Nature and the Lifecourse: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult Environmentalism," 2006.
At early ages, girls and children of color are highly interested in STEM learning, though they are less well represented in the STEM field as they age. STEM projects that focus on real-world social and environmental justice outcomes attract and retain girls and children of color more than those that focus on electronics and gadgetry.
Ebony McGee, "The Equity Ethic: Black and Latinx Students Re-engineer their Careers toward Justice," 2018.
The Children and Nature Network offers a free, indexed research library on environmental education.