What is Environmental Education?

Environmental education (EE) is a process that helps people learn more about the natural systems we all depend on, and understand what we must do to interact responsibly with our environment and safeguard natural resources for future generations. There are multiple ways to incorporate environmental education into the K-12 school day, early childhood education, post-secondary education, during out of school time and at home.

Check out this video from our friends at the North American Association for Environmental Education to see EE in action.


EE is Based in Sound Education Principles

A quality environmental education program or lesson should include accurate and factual information and connect to local and global issues. In practice, EE is hands-on, student-centered and interdisciplinary. The impact of quality EE is clear. 

Experts at Stanford University systematically searched the academic literature and analyzed 119 peer-reviewed studies published over a 20-year period that measured the impacts of environmental education for K-12 students. This review found evidence that environmental education programs provide a variety of benefits. Not surprisingly, the studies clearly showed that students taking part in environmental education programming gained knowledge about the environment. Additionally, EE has a number of other positive impacts, including improving academic performance, enhancing critical thinking skills, and developing personal growth and life-building skills including confidence, autonomy, and leadership. In addition, a number of the studies showed that environmental education increased civic engagement and positive environmental behaviors. 

Learn more about this research here. 

EE Enhances Existing Curricula

Environmental education is not meant to replace current content areas like science, social studies, math and English language arts. However, EE provides educators with an opportunity to enhance their existing curricula with lesson plans, units, resources and external programs. EE allows educators to bring real-world issues, current events and community-based content into the classroom to further illuminate the content that students already need to learn. 

Ask us how you can connect EE to the standards you need to teach! USEE is here to provide resources to all K-12 and early childhood educators in Utah. 

EE is Everywhere 

Environmental education can be found inside and right outside your door! EE works best when it happens in many different places and spaces, allowing individuals to build concepts and make connections over time. Some environmental education happens in formal learning settings, like schools and universities, or settings designed for environmental education, like outdoor classrooms or schools. EE also occurs in places where people encounter nature: parks, zoos, beaches, aquariums, or nature centers. This could occur on a field trip or on a family trip.  EE can also be found in places that support hands-on, practical experience: laboratories, summer camps, after school programs, and museums. 

EE in Our Community

USEE is one of many environmental education providers in Utah. USEE focuses primarily on educating adults, including K-12 teachers, informal educators, early childhood educators and interested community members on best practices in EE. There are dozens of EE providers across the state of Utah delivering quality EE programs, either on location, through school outreach programs, summer camps and more. 

Contact us at  if you are looking to connect with an EE provider in your community. 

EE is Civic & Community Engagement, Not Advocacy 

EE involves developing an understanding of our communities and how our human-built environment interacts with the natural world. This may often include developing an understanding of how decisions about the environment are made, including an understanding of the role that the public plays in governmental decision making. 

Examples of EE lessons that involve community engagement and civics include identifying an environmental need in the community and creating a service project with community-based organizations, or developing an understanding of a local environmental issue and learning how to contact elected officials to share views on this issue. 

Quality environmental education concentrates on the educational process. Our field strives to be unbiased and science-based. 

EE is Critical for Utah’s Future 

Our well-being as Utahns is interconnected with the well-being of our natural systems.  Locally and globally, we face increasingly complex challenges—from climate change and loss of species to decreasing access to nature, a growing gap between the haves and have nots, and other threats to our health, security, and future survival. Environmental education equips people, communities, and organizations with knowledge, skills, and motivation to make informed decisions about how they can address those challenges.