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  • Writer's picturemichelle atterby

What is Environmental Education?

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Environmental Education uses an interdisciplinary framework to teach concepts and principles in, about, and for the environment. Unique to the teaching approach is the educator's educational and experiential background. For me, as an independent environmental educator I weave together multiple philosophies, and teaching methodologies. I am inspired by the work of several earth elders (Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, Arne Naess...) whose tireless contributions in raising global ecological awareness, foster deep caring, and champion responsible action have not only shaped my teaching approach, but have shaped me personally in how I live my life and the choices I make.

Environmental Education is about life long learning, growing, dismantling old beliefs, and developing a deep understanding of the intricate connections that serve life on this planet. Building ecological literacy means learning about the functioning of natural systems, food systems, animal welfare, climate crisis, social inequality, economic responsibility, sustainable practices, stewardship, conservation, restoration, regeneration of lands, ethical consumer choices, and green technology leading to an ethics of care that inspires each one of us to take action, and contribute to a new and emerging world view.

Environmental Education is rich in experiential learning, engaging all the senses, attuning to our emotions, and creating meaning of our individual and shared experiences.

Incorporating Inquiry based learning creates a dynamic and emergent process that supports and builds upon participants natural curiosity about the world, and opens up stimulating dialogue, insightful questions and explores the complexity of a solutions orientated focus. Zoe Weil, pioneer in the humane education movement examines the "interconnected issues of human rights, environmental sustainability, and animal protection with the goal of preparing people to be solutionaries who can address and solve systemic problems and create a world where all life can thrive". This process requires having kids immersed in the natural world and developing an understanding of, and relationship with the natural world.

Central to this pedagogy are Indigenous perspectives, that are "rooted in complex, dynamic knowledge systems and grounded in long-standing cultural world views" (Natural Curiosity, 2nd edition, 2017), and include:

  • A strong sense of spirituality -> -> inquiry and engagement

  • A deeply rooted sense of place -> -> experiential learning

  • A recognition that everything is related -> -> integrated learning

  • An emphasis on reciprocity -> -> moving towards a life sustaining society

The sacred instructions apply to all persons, everywhere.

Environmental education is complex, diverse, engaging, invites the imagination, allows for strong emotions, creates deep meaning, addresses the crisis of our times, and provides viable solutions. The first step is inviting our children to immerse themselves in and fall in love with our beautiful, numinous, natural world.


Anderson, D et al (2017), Natural Curiosity 2nd Edition; A resource for Educators. Marquis Book Printing. Quebec.

Weil, Z.

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