Demonstrating the Impact of Environmental Education
More than ever, we are living in a data-driven world, where stories are enlightening but data drives the bottom line. Funders, policy makers, regulators, resource managers, and other decision makers rely on data to guide strategy.
In this climate, environmental education, which has a rich history of drawing on engaging anecdotes to demonstrate its value, needs to coalesce and communicate research-backed evidence of its impact on a range of outcomes, from student achievement to wildlife conservation to climate change adaptation.
Switzer fellows Nicole Ardoin (’02) and Christy Merrick (’00) are proposing a major new initiative to compile and analyze the existing research base for environmental education—and then identify existing opportunities for future research in the field. Importantly, this initiative, called Anecdotes to Evidence, will also include a significant focus on communications. After all, the data will do no good if they remain locked in academic journals. We propose linking rigorous research reviews with a robust communications strategy that will get the information into the hands of not only the research community, but also decision makers in policy, conservation, education, and other circles.
Nicole brings expertise in research and environmental education as an assistant professor at Stanford University. Christy’s focus is on supporting the environmental education field through the North American Association for Environmental Education, where she serves as the program director for the Natural Start Alliance. Because of Natural Start’s focus on early childhood education, we believe the best focus for this research review is on the impact and value of environmental education on children from birth through age 8. This early-childhood focus complements a broader national education policy emphasis on early childhood education, and could help infuse environmental learning in pre-K education.
A Switzer Network Innovation Grant will help us work together to chart a course for this ambitious project, identifying specific research questions, developing a research and communication plan, and identifying potential partners. We have already found significant interest in a potential partnership from the Children and Nature Network, which also has identified a similar need for more research-backed evidence of the positive impact of nature on children’s lives. In addition, Switzer Fellow Sara St. Antoine (’92) works with the Children and Nature Network and could also lend support to this initiative.
We are eager to gather input and ideas from the Switzer Network on this project. Please share your thoughts on the need, strategy, potential partnerships, and other relevant areas. Thank you for helping us shape this project, which we believe has the potential to strengthen the research basis of environmental education, promote innovation and collaboration, increase recognition for the field, and bring new resources in support of environmental learning.