This essay first appeared in the January 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 5).
Environmental education is a term with a broad range of interpretations, all interrelated but each subtly different. In some contexts, the term is used as a synonym for environmental science classes; in others it represents an avenue through which to explore social studies topics such as history, economics, civics, and the like. In truth, environmental education encompasses all of these topics and more. Environmental education is a useful area of study because it can be offered to students of any age and through any subject, including English/language arts, mathematics, social studies, the sciences, the arts, and even physical education. Environmental education concepts and materials are useful for dedicated courses and programs; can be applied as part of a unit of instruction or even as a single learning experience; and are most effective when they closely adhere to the practices, procedures, and issues of a particular discipline. Teachers’ and administrators’ implementation of environmental education is thus affected only by the limits of their imagination and can be either quite explicit or ancillary in structure and approach. A wealth of books and other materials exist to support these efforts, including those that help with identifying issues related to the environment, curricular development, assessment, or social and emotional needs.
This essay suggests books that have been, for the most part, published since 1990, focusing chiefly on works published in the United States. This date was chosen as it coincides with the United States Congress’s passage of the National Environmental Education Act of 1990. Since that time, various agencies of the federal government have provided financial assistance to schools to support environmental education. The National Environmental Education Act created a program within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award grants for educating elementary and secondary school students—and training teachers—in environmental subjects, and to fund other related activities. Since that time, a swell of interest in materials related to these topics has emerged, both in response to such funding and independently. A handful of foundational works published before this time will also be examined, as will those that represent the spectrum of viewpoints and perspectives common in the field. Some authors prefer to present lessons, units, and other curricular materials that are complete in and of themselves—we have included a variety of such resources for those interested. Other teachers, administrators, and schools might prefer to create the curriculum themselves using works designed to encourage inquiry and incorporating children’s literature—materials supporting this approach, too, have been included.
Stephen T. Schroth is a Professor of Early Childhood Education/Gifted & Creative Education at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. He holds a PhD in Educational Psychology/Gifted Education from the University of Virginia.
Janese Daniels is a Professor of Early Childhood Education and Chair of the Department of Early Childhood Education at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. She holds a PhD in Human Development Education from the University of Maryland College Park.