This paper asks how children can best be educated so that they will embrace a sustainable way of living. The supposition is that this earth, through the actions of humans, is in environmental crisis. While the crisis is acknowledged by Western nations such as the U.S., little is done to truly alter behavior with any effectiveness. The complex reasons for this are deeply rooted in a human disconnection with nature, coupled with an educational system that promotes consumerism and maintains a global structure of socio-economic hegemony.

Nature itself suggests many answers by providing a model of balance. On the human scale this is best approximated by the practice of sustainable agriculture among local communities. But most of our generation is unable to draw from this because we cannot break free from the dominant patterns of consumption and attitudes of lordship over nature with which we were raised. With the assumption that the deepest, most enduring change will occur when people from their earliest years develop a new consciousness surrounding the environment, the paper explores educational models that could lead to sustainable living as part of one’s ethos, not because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the natural thing to do.

The research examines a growing body of literature on the relationship of humans to the environment; it points to the need for a reconnection through nature-based experiences among children. Practical research includes a qualitative analysis of interviews with two educators whose programs immerse children in the natural world in order to meet this goal. The paper finds a high degree of alignment in pedagogical philosophy between the two programs as well as with many of the authors surveyed. While many components of these programs could be applied on a broader scale among educators of young children, further research is needed to evaluate the long-term impacts of these early experiences.


Education | Natural Resources and Conservation