History and Key Achievements

base of a redwood tree


For more than four decades, NAAEE has served as the professional association, champion, and backbone organization for the field of environmental education, working with a diverse group of educators in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to advance environmental education. Our audiences include those who reach others, including teachers and naturalists, researchers, conservationists, outdoor educators, scientists and science educators, resource and environmental managers, environmentalists, foundations and corporations, and all who care about how education and engagement can help create a more environmentally informed, committed, and active citizenry. Read NAAEE Thirty Years of History, 1971-2001.

Key Achievements

NAAEE is proud of our many accomplishments to elevate environmental education as a primary strategy for creating lasting environmental change. Below are some highlights, none of which could have been achieved without the incredible support of our many valued partners and funders.

Annual Conference

Since 1972, NAAEE has hosted the largest annual conference in North America expressly dedicated to advancing professional innovation, networking, tools and resources, and dissemination of best practices in environmental education. With more than 1,000 EE professionals from 25 countries represented, the NAAEE conference is a learning and networking hub for EE. Learn more about this year’s conference

Promoting Effective Practice

NAAEE’s National Project for Excellence in Environmental ­­­­­­Education has produced the Guidelines for Excellence, five sets of widely accepted national guidelines for environmental education materials, K–12 students, educators, nonformal programs, and early childhood learning. A sixth set of guidelines for working in community EEcommunities programs is in development and will provide options and opportunity for community building within the framework of environmental programming.

Leadership and Capacity Building

As a partner in the EPA-supported national training program since 1992, NAAEE has managed multiple initiatives to nurture leadership, build capacity, increase credibility, and broaden participation in the field. The current initiative, EECapacity, is building the capacity of environmental educators to strengthen, grow, and diversify the field of environmental education, leading and advance environmental literacy and civic engagement. To date, this partnership has engaged more than a million people and1,000 partner organizations, and has leveraged $2 million in funds to enhance impact.

As part of this effort, NAAEE has launched eePRO (see below) to enhance professional development and create an online learning and networking hub for EE, brought together practitioners from such diverse organizations including NAAEE’s affiliates, community-based groups, churches, zoos, nature centers, schools, government agencies, and parks that are committed to learning from each other, supported certification and accreditation efforts at the individual, state, and university level to advance environmental education, and helps pilot a community climate change initiative to show how environmental education can advance our work in climate change in communities across North America. 

Advocating for Environmental Education

NAAEE advocates for policies and programs that advance environmental education at the state and federal levels. Along with our affiliates, members, and partner organizations, we have been a leader in securing support for the historic No Child Left Inside Act and holding the line on federal environmental education appropriations. Recognizing the tremendous potential of the Affiliate Network to deepen our impact, NAAEE works with state environmental education associations to build their capacities for advocacy and provide technical support for the development of environmental literacy plans.

Natural Start Alliance

Since 2013, the Natural Start Alliance has worked with more than 100 member organizations across the United States and internationally to promote environmental education and nature-based play and learning. Natural Start publishes the International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, hosts the Nature-Based Preschool National Conference, and convenes the Council for Nature-Based Early Childhood Education. With more than 150 member organizations across the United States and internationally, Natural Start advocates at the state and national levels for nature-based play and learning for young children.


NAAEE led a research effort to examine how environmental education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education intersect and can be mutually supportive.

This research was supported through our partnership with UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a collaboration that also enabled NAAEE to provide $250,000 in funding through the UL Innovative Education Award to support innovative E-STEM programs that demonstrate a track record of success. These programs are collectively impacting over a million students annually, and only look to grow with our support

Additionally, NAAEE in collaboration with the California Water Service has launched an in-school competition promoting conservation and E-STEM, which has already impacted twenty school districts in California and over 1,700 participating students in its inaugural year.


In 2015 NAAEE launched eePRO, a ground breaking online portal for environmental education professionals to network, share resources and opportunities, and learn about the latest trends in EE. This innovative web portal is visited by thousands of educators each day.

Grounding EE in Research

NAAEE launched a new initiative called Anecdotes to Evidence in 2014. The goal is to help showcase the value and impact of environmental education by doing a comprehensive analysis of the existing research and developing communication materials that professionals can use to support their work. NAAEE is partnering with Stanford University, as well as a number of other universities and organizations to showcase the evidence of the impact of EE on a variety of factors, from student academic performance to conservation outcomes.