By Marty Wiggins
Did you know it’s National Environmental Education Week? Since 2004, the National Environmental Education Foundation has coordinated the week before Earth Day as a time to foster greater awareness of environmental education and to encourage children and adults to enjoy the outdoors.
What is so great about environmental education? The obvious benefit is that it gets kids and adults outside. But research also shows that environmental education and outdoor and community-based learning improves student achievement across the curriculum and can have a positive effect on classroom and social behavior. Adults can benefit as well, as outdoor activities have been shown to improve mental focus and can be therapeutic for those suffering with stress-related problems and physical health issues.
Even though EE Week started on the 11th, there is still time to participate. Here are some ideas:
First, just get outside! In North Carolina, we use our Web site, press releases, blog and other social media outlets to let people know about the outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities that are out there. Our Web site is also a partner with the Southeast Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA), which has a similar calendar of events for each member state. Wisconsin has also joined in on this partnership, and we hope more states will in the future. If your state is not covered by SEEA, check with your state, local and national parks and natural resource agencies. Also, most states have an affiliate environmental education association and/or a state office of environmental education that may be of assistance. And exploring your own backyard or neighborhood can work just as well. Here are some N.C. based activities for kids (and adults) that work anywhere: EE Parent; Take A Child Outside Activities; N.C. Junior Ranger Activity Book and Model Inquiries into Nature in the Schoolyard (available through a partnership with Virginia Tech). The Children and Nature Network also has tips on places to visit as well as strategies and research that promotes outdoor and nature activities (April is Children and Nature Awareness Month).
North Carolina has proclaimed it Environmental Education Week on the state level, and some cities across the U.S. have also declared it EE Week. The National EE Week site has sample proclamations and press releases. In addition, schools and organizations can still register as EE Week participants at www.eeweek.org. Our office uses EE Week as a kick-off for a whole informal “Environmental Education Month” and promotes Earth Day and Arbor Day events and workshops as well. We encourage schools, colleges, organizations, cities and counties and other government agencies to promote their events through our site. We also do an “EE Month” blog and feature reports and photos from around the state. This has been really popular and helps others plan events for next year.
So, there’s a variety of ways to celebrate Environmental Education Week right in your own neighborhood. EE Week is an opportunity to invest a little time in promoting environmental awareness that will pay off all year in your state and community!
Marty Wiggins is a Community Development Program Manager. He works with the North Carolina Office of Environmental Education within the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
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