Skip to Main Content

Environmental Education: An Appealing Pathway to Project-Based Guided Investigations (January 2023): Development of the Field

By Stephen T. Schroth and Janese Daniels

Development of the Field

Humans have always been interested in the world around them and in forces that shape, change, and influence their communities, nations, and planet. Fascination with the environment, and our human effect upon it, captivates many children and youths today to take steps to minimize environmental degradation and initiate sustainable activities that will improve living conditions for future generations. Concurrent with this growing awareness, schools have also worked to increase students’ performance in subjects related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at all grade levels. However, many administrators, classroom teachers, curriculum coordinators, and others attempting to harness this interest for increased academic performance are often left with questions as to how they might best proceed, such as: What is the best way to integrate environmental science into the curriculum? Should environmental science be studied as a separate discipline or integrated into other subjects currently in the course of study? What is the best age group with which to begin these investigations? Is there a research base that supports increasing environmental science offerings? Is environmental education limited to classes in STEM subjects, or may it be incorporated across the curriculum? How might teachers with little background in environmental science support this effort?

Fortunately, there are myriad paths to integrating environmental studies and sustainability education into the curriculum in highly relevant ways that make real-world connections to learners’ communities and to the broader world around them. A variety of resources, both formal and informal, allow even the teacher with little or no background in environmental studies or sustainability education to provide rigorous instructional sequences that help students engage with these important concepts in meaningful and productive ways.