After being involved in environmental education now for more than 30 years, I have questions that crop up in my mind that do not seem to abate. I thought I would list them and see if they occur to others and how you address them in your life. They are not in any specific order or appear as more important in where they are placed. These questions came to me over time. I am sure there are many more.
If you have thought of these too, that would be consoling. No, we do not need a bevy of research studies, unless you want to footnote them. And if you have other questions not listed, please share them with us.
Here they are:
What have we seen that convinces us that nature/EE have made a difference in the physical, emotional, or thinking of children and adults? Do share a story that confirms you have seen this kind of difference. It seems to me we need this now more than ever.
Can we show there is a connection between EE/nature and mental health?
Rachel Carson suggested that we take young children out into nature and be a partner in the experience as opposed to the purveyor of knowledge and wisdom. Have we taken Rachel’s suggestions to heart? If so what kinds of thoughts went through your mind as your shared nature with children? If you tried to show and tell things to young children, how did they respond? How did you respond?
If children gain from being outdoors, then why do they stay indoors?
If Nature is restorative, then why do people not go outdoors?
If test scores are improved with nature and outdoor experiences, then why do we cleave to keeping children at their desks?
Does a one-time nature/outdoor experience have any value?
Why do administrators of schools believe that staying in a classroom is better for children than anything else?
If research says using nature or the environment as an integrating context improves school performance, then why is it rejected by those who control classrooms, teachers and their students?
If we expect students to be civically engaged in their communities about the environment and nature, then should we not have multiple experiences for them throughout their education?
Why do field trips and nature excursions usually happen at the end of the school year instead of throughout the year?
How do children learn to be fearful of nature and the outdoors?
Are certain personality types prone to like nature and getting out into the outdoors? Why?
If nature is healing why do more people not seek out this resource?
Do we believe EE is interdisciplinary or is it STEM, or is it science, or is it social studies?
Is EE, nature and the arts alike in how they are respected and supported?
Is it critical to give children time to explore nature or should we direct their play outdoors?
Why do administrators believe that seat time in the classroom has greater value than being outdoors? If that is the case, is there any body of evidence that will convince them of the benefits of nature and the out-of-doors?
Why do some people think that nature and the out-of-doors is only for some people, those people unlike them?
Is there a way of convincing adults that being outdoors and in nature has a value other than being occupied?
With much research that has been completed over time, why does it seem that EE/nature study and learning outdoors is deemed a frill or an extra in the school curriculum?
Do you have other questions you would like to add? If so post them?
If you have any notions about these questions, please share them.