Research Supporting Environmental Education in the Classroom

A wide variety of research is available to support the use of environmental education and outdoor instruction. Research indicates improvement in students' critical thinking, motivation, achievement in core subject areas, classroom behavior, and more.

Use the Children & Nature Network to find great research summaries and links to full research papers on environmental education and outdoor instruction.

link to Children and Nature NetworkBelow are a few sample research summaries found on the Children & Nature Network Web site.

You Can Get Your Student Outside — and Still Meet Your State Standards

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The research is clear: hands-on, experiential learning leads to higher test scores and lower behavior issues. Common sense tells us that sitting still at a desk – no matter the subject – simply does not result in a child who is constructing knowledge or developing a love of learning.

NSTA's Official Position Statement on Environmental Education

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NSTA strongly supports environmental education as a way to instill environmental literacy in our nation's pre-K–16 students. It should be a part of the school curriculum because student knowledge of environmental concepts establishes a foundation for their future understandings and actions as citizens. Central to environmental literacy is the ability of students to master critical-thinking skills that will prepare them to evaluate issues and make informed decisions regarding stewardship of the planet. The environment also offers a relevant context for the learning and integration of core content knowledge, making it an essential component of a comprehensive science education program.

Outdoor Experience for Teens Has Self-Reported Life-Changing Results

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A classic 1998 study by Dr. Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University, with assistance from Victoria Derr, remains the most comprehensive research to date to examine the effects on teenage youth of participation in outdoor education, specifically wilderness-based programs. Subjects were participants in programs offered through three old and well-respected organizations: the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and Outward Bound. The researchers used quantitative and qualitative research techniques, and parallel use of both retrospective and longitudinal study techniques. Results indicate that the majority of respondents found this outdoor experience to be "one of the best in their life." Participants report positive effects on their personal, intellectual, and, in some cases, spiritual development. Pronounced results were found in enhanced self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy and initiative. These impacts occurred among both the retrospective and longitudinal respondents in this study, which means, in part, that these results persisted through many years.

Kellert, Stephen R.; with the assistance of Victoria Derr. "A National Study of Outdoor Wilderness Experience." New Haven: Yale University, 1998.