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Smith College

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Australia: Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology

Abstract

Australia’s history of environmental education began in 1970 with a conference meant to highlight and discuss the importance of environmental education in schools. Since then, the way environmental education is taught in schools has evolved and expanded to its current state, which is a way of teaching that highlights the interconnectedness of environmental issues to many different subjects and disciplines. Hands-on environmental education has also become increasingly valued, both in schools with gardening, waste, and energy programs, and from outside experts visiting schools to teach students experiential lessons about the environment. One such organization that sends environmental experts to schools is Greening Australia, the Tasmanian branch of which is located at the new Sustainability Learning Centre in Mt. Nelson.

This study was undertaken as a way to see how formal school educators and administrators value experiential environmental education, and whether participants felt that they could easily access experiential learning opportunities outside their school. The study was done for Greening Australia in Tasmania, to provide information to inform their fledgling experiential environmental education programs.

The study was undertaken as a survey that was administered to participating schools through online, telephone, and in-person venues. The methods included developing useful and appropriate survey questions, visiting, telephoning, and emailing schools with the survey, and finally analysing the results from the survey questions.

The results showed that the majority of environmental education in Tasmanian schools is currently taught as an interdisciplinary subject, across many areas. Many schools use hands-on lessons to teach about sustainable life choices, and all the schools surveyed acknowledged the benefit that adding experiential lessons to their science, geography, and environmental education programs would-or does-have. All survey participants valued experiential education taught by outside experts to some degree, but 48% of respondents did not believe they could easily access these opportunities, citing lack of time or space in the curricula, budgeting, and distance from the opportunities as barriers.

While the benefits of environmental education, experiential education, and community expert involvement in schools were clear, the results of this survey indicated that many schools do not feel that they can adequately incorporate these aspects of learning into their curricula, leading to a potential deficit in the way students are learning to think about and interact with the environment due to a simple lack of time and resource availability.

Disciplines

Education | Environmental Sciences | Science and Mathematics Education

 

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