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Environmental Education and Environmental Policies - Report Example

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This report outlines the main historical aspects of environmental education and environmental policies. The Industrial Revolution dramatically increased man's environmental footprint and man has responded by becoming more aware, sensitive, and knowledgeable about the world in which he lives. The concept that the environment is an integral part of our lives goes back 250 years to the dawn of the scientific age of innovation…
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Environmental Education and Environmental Policies
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Download file to see previous pages Environmental Education traces its roots back to 1762 and the publication of Emile, a novel on educational philosophy that argued that education should focus on the environment (McRea). Wilbur Jackman's 1891 publication of Nature Study for the Common School initiated the Nature Study Movement that was pioneered by the American Nature Study Society headed by the naturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey (McRea). A greater environmental awareness was fostered in the United States by the Romantic Nature Movement and the Progressive Education Movement led by John Dewey (Haskin). In essence, "Environmental education did not spring forth fully formed from any one discipline, but rather as a product of a co-evolutionary process within science, public awareness of environmental issues, and educational ideas" (Haskin). The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was accompanied by an even greater awareness of our environment and the need for conservation and sustainability. The movement towards today's concept of environmental education has been rooted in conservation and student inquiry. This was a project-based approach that called for collaborative thinking and reduced the traditional boundaries that existed between disciplines. The Conservation Movement was spearheaded by Aldo Leopold, a Wisconsin educator that advocated an "an approach to science that merged environmental thinking, science and life practice" (Haskin). This thinking led to the first college degree in conservation at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in 1946 and the coining of the phrase 'environmental education' by Thomas Pritchard, Deputy Directory of the Nature Conservancy, at a meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Paris in 1948 (McRea). The next decade would see a greater public awareness of nature and the natural surroundings and a call for increased sensitivity and responsibility in our actions that affect our world's environment. These attitudes were brought into greater focus by the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, a critical review of the devastating effects that man and technology can have on the environment (Haskin). The modern environmental movement had been born and the first Earth Day in 1970 can be considered the birth of the modern national policies on Environmental Education, as well as environmental law and policy. Since the 1970s, environmental education has been addressed in the US and around the world based on a few basic principles. 1977 marked the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education held at Tbilisi, in the former Soviet republic of Georgia (Archie and McRea). The conference set forth five broad objectives for environmental education that the EPA agreed to and continues to support. These five principles are (1) Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges; (2) Knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges; (3) Attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality; (4) Skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges; and (5) Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges (Basic Information). These objectives promote critical thinking to drive the program of Environmental Education rather than advocating a specific viewpoint or stand on an issue. The year 1970 brought the environment to the forefront of public awareness by the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Water Improvement Act, the creation of the Environmental. Protection Agency (EPA), and the passage of the Environmental Education Act of 1970. According to Bearden, the Environmental Education Act of 1970 "established an Office of Environmental Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to award grants for developing environmental curricula and training teachers" (CRS-1). Federal efforts to transfer the responsibility of education to the states resulted in the expiration of the Act in the 1980s, but it was reenacted through the Environmental Education Act of 1990. At that time, Congress found that "existing federal programs to educate the public about environmental problems and train environmental professionals were inadequate" and mandated the government to renew the  "federal role in environmental education and reestablish an office of environmental education within EPA" (Bearden CRS-2). Since 1990 there has been an increased focus on Environmental Education as a separate and specialized discipline, as the EPA has worked with students and educators to heighten the awareness of the multiple facets concerning our knowledge of the environment. While funding authorizations for the program have expired, the Senate has continued to vote for additional funding to maintain the program. The cost of the program is approximately $9 million a year and is used to "work with educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, tribal governments, and state and local environmental agencies to educate the public about environmental problems and encourage students to pursue environmental careers" (Bearden CRS-2). The money is allocated to individual projects through the EPA with the goal of increasing "public knowledge about environmental issues and provide the public with the skills necessary to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to protect the environment" (Bearden CRS-2). The awards and grants have been used in all 50 states and US territories for the purpose of "educating elementary and secondary school students, training teachers, purchasing textbooks, developing curricula, and other educational activities" (Bearden CRS-2). There is a $250,000 limit per grant and most awards are small awards of less than $15,000 with the average being approximately $8,000. While the program has been effective at meeting some of its objectives, a significant portion of the grants that are requested are denied due to a lack of funding. The grants are utilized by a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations working in a multitude of disciplines. The largest recipients of grant money since 1992 have been non-profit organizations that have received almost 50 percent of the funding, with colleges, universities, and government agencies also getting a significant portion (EE Grants Awarded). The grants have addressed such issues as water, pesticides, solid waste, ecosystems, and environmental literacy. A typical program is the Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) Project operated by the Bay Institute in Novato California. Their $92 thousand grant is used to teach K-12 students "environmental issues specific to the San Francisco Bay region. Participants gain knowledge, skills, and experience in environmental science and place-based learning methodologies that ultimately improve community environmental stewardship" (US Environmental Protection Agency 4). School district #299 in the Chicago public school system received $86 thousand to study and preserve vital green spaces, ecosystems, and waterways throughout the city of Chicago. The students receive education relevant to "threats to the environment, including invasive species, development, pollution, and neglect. They also consider strategies for developing responses to restoring and conserving natural areas in the city" (US Environmental Protection Agency 4). Additionally, many schools and agencies are awarded grants of less than $3 thousand to study and correct a specific local issue.  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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