Best Practices for Family Programs in EE | NAAEE

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Best Practices for Family Programs in EE

Hey everyone! I am a graduate student at Montreat College researching family programming in EE for my thesis topic. I first became interested in the idea of family programming in EE after reading several research articles about Significant Life Experiences that have lead individuals to become environmental literate. In this research, family is often one of the highest ranking influences. This lead me to begin researching family programming in EE. To my surprise I haven't been able to find much research spefically in this area. I have found some articles about intergenerational learning and some articles about family experiences in musuems but not much to else.

Does anyone have any suggestions about possible research avenues to pursue or know any practioners who conduct family programs on a regular basis? My current research question is "What are best practices for family environmental education programs?". My hope is that through this type of research question maybe one day in the near future an environmental educator who wants to start family programs could find some research with suggestions for practice, guidelines for excellance, or some kind of information along those lines.

Thanks for any help you might be able to provide.

Hi Jessica, I am an environmental educator in Maine who runs two different family nature clubs. I am actually a second generation family nature club mother started one for our family in 1980's...we have continued on that tradition with all of our children in my family running a family nature nut summer camp for our children every summer somewhere in the united states...I also started a family nature club in Maine 5 years ago that meets weekly with 6 families and now 12 children and we do overnight trips in the summer. It has been a pretty fascinating experience. I presented at the New England Environemntal Education Alliance conference in 2014 with other EE family nature club folks about different models for family nature clubs. I could also connect you with those practitioners. I would be happy to connect with you more about this type of family programming (the club model) if it fits into your research needs. I have also started a website Nature Families to help share info about things we do to other families interested in starting a family nature club etc. Hope this is helpful! Feel free to zip me an email at if you want to connect.

Hi Jessica,
I'd be happy to connect with you if you'd like ( as family learning in the outdoors is a focus of my research. Here are some citations that might help you along as you start to think more specifically about this topic:
Houseal, A. K., Bourque, C. M., Welsh, K. M., & Wenger, M. (2014). Free-Choice Family Learning : A Literature Review for the National Park Service. Journal of Interpretation Research, 19(1), 7–29.
Marin, A. M. (2013). Learning to attend and observe: Parent-child meaning making in the natural world. Northwestern University. Retrieved from
James, J. J., & Bixler, R. D. (2008). Children’s Role in Meaning Making Through Their Participation in an Environmental Education Program. The Journal of Environmental Education, 39(4), 44–60.
Zimmerman, H. T., & McClain, L. R. (2015). Family learning outdoors: Guided participation on a nature walk. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Early View, n/a-n/a.
McClain, L. R., & Zimmerman, H. T. (2014). Prior experiences shaping family science conversations at a nature center. Science Education, 98(6), 1009–1032.
Zimmerman, H. T., & McClain, L. R. (2014). Exploring the outdoors together: Assessing family learning in environmental education. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 41, 38–47.
Zimmerman, H. T., & McClain, L. R. (2014). Intergenerational learning at a nature center : families using prior experiences and participation frameworks to understand raptors. Environmental Education Research, 20(2), 177–201.
Zimmerman, H. T., McClain, L. R., & Crowl, M. (2013). Understanding how families use magnifiers during nature center walks. Research in Science Education, 43, 1917–1938.