Early Childhood EE

Young children planting a garden

A positive and caring attitude toward the environment is a critical component of environmental literacy, and research shows that most attitudes are formed early in life. Providing young children with frequent opportunities to experience the beauty and wonder of the natural world, develop positive emotional connections with their immediate surroundings, and care for plants and animals establishes a necessary foundation for learning about environmental issues and taking appropriate action later in life. In addition, a growing body of evidence documents the many benefits that time spent playing and learning in nature has on children’s healthy development.

The following resources will inspire and guide early childhood environmental education professionals in nature centers, museums, preschools, daycares, colleges, universities, and other settings as they help young children connect with nature and care for the environment.

Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

If early childhood environmental education had a patron saint, it would be Rachel Carson. Better known for her research and writings on the dangers of pesticides, Carson’s ideas on introducing young children to the joys and wonder of nature have inspired many environmental educators and reassured them that, for children and caregivers alike, “it is not half so important to know as to feel.” Written in an almost lyrical tone, this short book will nourish and remind you why your work matters.

Cover of The Sense of Wonder
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Rachel Carson's book, recently reissued with new photos and an introduction, discusses how to keep child-like wonder and how to spark it in young people

Resource Category:

Book
Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

Based on almost three decades of work in early childhood environmental education, the third edition of Ruth Wilson’s book provides a highly accessible overview of the philosophy, research, and best practices in nature-based play and learning. If your program’s goal is to promote the healthy development of young children along with an ethic of caring for the environment, there are few other resources that present the why, what, and how in a better researched and better written way.

Cover of Nature and Young Children
Resource

This book by Ruth Wilson provides up-to-date information on many aspects of nature-based play and learning for early childhood

Resource Category:

Publication, Book
Organization: 
Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

So many people have been inspired by Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods (which is another a key resource in early childhood environmental education!) for a variety of reasons. I think one reason the book has sparked so much interest is its extensive use of research to back up its central argument that children are suffering from a lack of nature. The eeRESEARCH database is a collaboration between NAAEE and the Children & Nature Network, an organization launched because of Last Child in the Woods. The database puts all of that research, and much more, at your fingertips so you can use it to make the case for early childhood environmental education.

Resource
Moderator Endorsed: Research & Evaluation
Moderator Endorsed: Research & Evaluation

Whether you’re a program developer, evaluator, researcher, or funder, eeRESEARCH can help you find resources to support your work and improve practice! Browse more than 1,000 research summaries and syntheses, or use a variety of tools to narrow your search to the topics, authors, or focus areas that interest you.

Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

Published by NAAEE, this is the only peer-reviewed journal dedicated to early childhood environmental education. And because it's available for free online, it puts current research in any educator's hands. Although it is an academic journal, the articles tend to be easy for anyone to understand and use--no PhD required!

IJECEE Vol. 5 (2)
IJECEE Vol. 5 (2)
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Moderator Endorsed: Early Childhood EE

IJECEE Vol. 5 (2) publishes scholarly articles pertinent to the education of all young children (birth to eight years), and is available in print or for free download. Environmental Education: Addressing, Issues, Policies, Practices, and Research That Matter

Resource Category:

Publication, NAAEE Publication, Journal
Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

As nature preschools explode in popularity, many people are wondering how they can start a nature preschool of their own or bring one to their community. Nature preschool veteran Rachel Larimore is a consultant who helps people with everything from clarifying their philosophy to developing their business plan, and this book puts her knowledge into your hands. If you're thinking that a nature preschool might be your path to offering early childhood environmental education, this is a great resource to help give you a road map to get started.

Cover of Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool
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Rachel A. Larimore details discussions around Nature-Based Preschools and how to start one

Resource Category:

Book
Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

Really any title from David Sobel is great reading for anyone interested in early childhood environmental education (he has inspired so many educators over the years), but I like this one because I think it's really at the heart of what environmental educators working with people of any age are trying to do: connect people to the places where they live so they can enjoy and protect them for a lifetime.

Cover of Place-Based Education
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David Sobel, in the 2nd edition of his book, makes the case for place-based environmental education

Resource Category:

Book
Guidelines:
  • Fairness and accuracy
  • Depth
  • Emphasis on skills building
  • Action orientation
  • Instructional soundness
  • Usability

This book is a hidden gem! Written by early childhood education veteran Marcie Oltman, it's a great introduction to developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood environmental education, which is a major theme of the Guidelines for Excellence. And as a bonus, it's available for free!

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Resource

Natural Wonders was written especially for environmental educators and naturalists who are interested in learning more about how and why young children think and act.

Resource Category:

Classroom, Lesson Plan, Publication, Book