Definition and Benefits of Environmental Education
The Refuge System and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) define environmental education as the process used to create a citizenry that understands the importance of conservation and our nation’s natural resources. Environmental education programs instill in learners the awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and commitment to conserve natural resources and to continuously revisit and explore scientific, biological, historical, and societal issues related to conservation (FWS policy 605 FW 6). It must be clearly noted that the goal of environmental education is not environmental advocacy. It is to teach learners how to become aware, ask questions, seek evidence and formulate their own, unique, creative thoughts about the environment and conservation.
In addition to developing an environmentally literate citizenry, the methods of environmental education prove to have additional bonuses for learners. Recent studies indicate that environmental education increases student engagement, academic achievement, leadership skills, critical thinking skills, overall health, and reduces discipline problems (Archie, 2003; Glenn, 2000; GCEE, 2004; Falco, 2004; Michael Duffin, & PEER Associates, 2005; NAAEE, 2001; Bell, Wilson, and Liu, 2008; Taylor, & Kuo, 2008; Bell & Dymen, 2008).
Environmental Education at Neal Smith NWR
To best reach these objectives and create lifelong learners, Neal Smith NWR has formed community partnerships and offers environmental education programs for participants of all ages. Neal Smith NWR staff provides environmental education programs for selected partner schools, partner teachers, and scout groups.
Neal Smith NWR also offers field trip environmental education experiences for non-partner schools and teachers. Refuge staff provides schedules, materials, resources and ideas for field trips, but non-partner schools and teachers are expected to lead their own programs when visiting Neal Smith NWR. Please call Michelle at 515-994-3400 for the latest program and date availability.