Engaging Students in Environment-Based Education

This Week in NWF History

Since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to conserve the nation’s wildlife and wild places. As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, we are recognizing important moments in our history that continue to make an impact today.

In 2008, the National Wildlife Federation became the U.S. host for the international Eco-Schools program. Founded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, Eco-Schools has emerged as the largest green schools program in the world.
Farm to Cafe Day. Photo from Brooklyn New School
Farm to Cafe Day. Photo from Brooklyn New School

Through the Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program, there are currently more than 4,000 Eco-Schools in the U.S. dedicated to supporting real-world learning and problem solving both inside and outside the school facility. Additionally, NWF’s Schoolyard Habitats® programs engage another 6,000 schools in creating outdoor classrooms where educators and students learn, through ongoing collaboration, investigation and inquiry, how to attract and support local wildlife.

At the Brooklyn New School (BNS), P.S. 146, for example, environment-based education and Green STEM has always been at the core of an interdisciplinary inquiry-based curriculum. It is this approach to teaching and learning that supports students to think independently and to find solutions to questions. This year, the school started “green recess,” where older students used recycled materials to build forts and let their imaginations run wild to make regular recess more fun, and the school demonstrated the importance of eating local through their Farm to Café Day where students learned about fall produce and sustainable menus.

“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Children should be prepared to become informed citizens who can understand complex problems such as flooding, climate change, and the decreasing supplies of fossil fuels. BNS connects all studies to these contemporary issues, whether it is four-year-olds learning about themselves, seven-year-olds exploring how to get water from the mountains to the city, or ten year-olds harvesting the three sisters garden.

Going on a bug find. Photo from Brooklyn New School
Going on a bug hunt. Photo from Brooklyn New School

As the school’s principal, Anna Allanbrook, says, “We teach these big ideas through hands-on investigations and experiential learning. The students go on field trips that are integral to our science/social studies/sustainability curriculum. We know that these experiences are as basic to instruction as pencils, papers, and notebooks.”

With effective, engaging environment-based education, students understand the real meaning of sustainability and are able to articulate it. As Brooklyn New School exemplifies, Eco-Schools USA nurtures a love for nature, a hope for change, and an understanding that it is each citizen’s responsibility to build a sustainable future.

Learn MoreLearn more about Eco-Schools USA today