At Choice Schools, we take great pride in offering four models of education that all help teach the individual learner. This month, in honor of Earth Day, we are highlighting the values of environmental education. This blog post is brought to you by Ali DuBois, Area Superintendent for the Environmental Model Schools.
Think back to your days as a young student, how much time did you spend outdoors, and how much of that time was spent learning about the environment? Did you learn outdoors year-long? The importance of our environment is priceless, and our environmental schools are equipped with amazing tools for our students to explore all Earth provides and the wonders of nature right from their school grounds!
Environmental education is more than just learning about nature. It provides students with the opportunity to experience the variety of biodiversity all around them. It allows students to connect with their senses, to touch, feel, smell, hear, and at times taste the components of nature that cannot be portrayed in the same way through a textbook. This interconnectedness and reliance between humans and nature help to further emphasize the importance of nurture, protection and taking care of our surroundings.
Environmental education also provides important opportunities for students to become engaged in world issues that go well beyond our classroom walls. Students are asked to take care of their community, including campus clean-ups, recycling challenges, hosting environmental awareness fairs, and connecting with their local community to take part in sustainability projects. Next Generation Science Standards are cross-curricular and allow our students to explore science through the lens of all core subjects.
But mainly, environmental learning is fun! Getting students outdoors allows them to think more freely. The ability to interact with their lessons enables them to retain information through experience and through their contributions. Students walk the trails of their multiple-acre campuses, plant gardens, and watch vegetables and fruits grow, seeing their projects and lessons in fruition from beginning to end.
A major component of the success we have as environmental schools is rooted in the passionate leaders we have who share the beauty of the outdoors. Our school leaders and environmental education specialists develop such strong lessons and projects that help our students connect with nature in engaging and enriching ways! When asked why they believe in environmental education, they shared:
Ms. Susie Schlehuber, Head of School at Lake Superior Academy:
Students can learn about caring for their environments by reading books and writing reports, but LSA believes students need to practice environmental care every day in order to build earth-friendly habits that will follow them into their adult lives. That is why our students are outdoors – every day – exploring, playing, and learning to appreciate and care for the beautiful world around them.
Kate Hasenbank, Environmental Science Specialist at New Branches Charter Academy:
“Environmental education is so important in providing our youth with engaging nature experiences to help them connect with and value their natural environment. I want students to understand they are integral parts of helping to make this world a more sustainable and equitable society; they are our future decision-makers!”
Shawn Wessell. Environmental Education Specialists at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science:
WMAES’s environmental education program allows students to explore environmental issues, engage in problem-solving, and take action to improve the environment. As a result, our students develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions. If you ask some of our students, they will probably say the best part about environmental education is that they get to explore WMAES’s 60 acres on a daily/weekly basis.
Holly Orians, Environmental Education Specialists at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science:
Environmental education allows students to go beyond the four walls of a classroom, into the real world to find the connections to what they’ve been learning and to find their place in the outdoors. Making connections is what education is about and the outdoors gives them the answers that give them answers to real-world problems. I love to see those connections happen and to see how the students use their sense of place as they grow into environmentally sound adults.