I recently received a letter from the Sierra Club featuring glossy pictures of grizzly bears and jaguars. A bold heading declared: Once They're Gone...They're Lost Forever.
The conservation movement is adept at generating provocative campaigns that inspire people to take action. In contrast, those of us in environmental education typically pitch our efforts in less dramatic fashion, making our work seem simply "nice to have." At the cross-section of education reform and the environment, you'd expect our headlines to have a much greater sense of urgency. To make the point, the IslandWood team brainstormed some headlines that we'd like to see:
- Children in Nature - an Endangered Species
- Deep in the Forest...a Scientist is Born
- Nature: You Can't Care if You're Never There
- If a Tree Falls in the Woods and Everyone's Inside...Will Anybody Care?
- Outdoors: The Miracle Cure For Depression, Obesity, and Heart Disease.
The case for environmental education is more compelling than ever. Outdoor time is increasingly recognized for its benefits to children's health and development. Learning in outdoor settings can boost academics as compared to traditional "walled" classrooms, and it helps create future conservationists. Dr. Peter Kahn has coined the term "environmental generational amnesia" to capture the idea that children can't recognize environmental degradation without first having direct personal experiences with natural areas.
Environmental education is not a "nice to have" - it's critical to our children and the future of our planet. And if we are going to actually become an effective movement, we are going to need to get far better at telling our story and sharing messages that actually move people.