The impact of environmental education
By Lindsey Stover, Executive Director at Harbor WildWatch
Why is environmental education important to incorporate into a child’s curricula? What role does it play in developing a sense of place and passion for the natural environment? And what impact can exposure to quality outdoor experiences have on a child’s future?
It has long been accepted that environmental education positively influences academic achievement, but researchers at Stanford University needed data to support the belief that these programs have a more expansive impact on young minds. After a comprehensive analysis of 20 years’ worth of peer-reviewed studies, they found clear evidence that environmentally focused activities help develop life-building skills among youth. Their review showed that students exposed to quality environmental education opportunities throughout their academic careers experienced significant improvement in:
• Critical thinking, oral communication, analytical skills and problem-solving
• Enthusiasm for and interest in school
• Self-esteem, character development, teamwork and leadership skills
• Environmentally friendly behavior
• Feelings of civic responsibility and empowerment
• And aptitude in science, mathematics, reading and writing
“There is no doubt that environmental education is one of the most effective ways to instill a passion for learning among students,” says Dr. Nicole Ardoin. It is a powerful teaching tool because it “provides transformative learning opportunities that engage young people in the world around them in meaningful, collaborative ways.”
Harbor WildWatch proudly provides this outlet for students in the greater Gig Harbor community—delivering hundreds of unique opportunities that improve eco-literacy and stewardship practices each year. From beach walks that introduce a child to their first octopus to classroom STEM workshops that demonstrate the salmon life cycle, each activity is designed to live up to our motto of “Learn. Have Fun.” The interactive nature of these programs ensures students enjoy the learning process and are eager to come back for more.
The exposure we provide to local beaches, wetlands, estuaries and forested areas helps develop a strong sense of place among youth—an appreciation for the natural environment, its inhabitants, and their role in keeping it healthy. As students grow into adulthood and become decision-makers of their own, we hope these experiences lead to attitudes and behaviors that protect the natural world.
If you want your child to experience the many benefits of environmental education, we invite you to join us on one of our free, family friendly programs. Visit the events calendar on our website at HarborWildWatch.org or follow us on our social media platforms to find a program that your family will enjoy. We look forward to helping your child get to know and love this place we all call home.