I personally think that the most effective method of environmental education is to connect people with nature. Statistics show that people that live in urbanized areas rarely ever get the opportunity to experience nature and wildlife first hand. I think that in order for people (especially the youth) to care more about the environment, they’ve got to see it, smell it, and touch it. There are more nonprofit environmental organizations that are developing youth programs that are designed to get kids out into nature with the hopes that they will become future environmental stewards.
I think that doing rather than just showing is the way to go. Take kids to a landfill and allow them to experience the overwhelming fact that landfills cannot continue to be the only means of getting rid of discards. Make a group compost pile and then use that compost to support a veggie garden. Hands on is the way to go!
When I was teaching the Environmental Science merit badge to Boy Scouts, I found it best to use a combination of discussions and hands-on activities. The scouts did not like to sit still for long, so I would alternate between using demonstrations and having a class discussion.
As you can see from this link, the Environmental Science merit badge has certain requirements that must be covered, but it is very loose in how the instructor can interpret those requirements. For the timeline, I divided the scouts into groups and asked them to perform miniature skits to make history come alive. When defining the terms, I held an active discussion with them while they took notes. Students like to know that their instructor respects their intelligence, so asking them questions and letting them answer is a better way to teach than just standing in front of them and lecturing monotonously.
In some cases, homework is necessary. Asking students to explore something on their own can help students develop responsibility and give them a sense of accomplishment. Even though they complain when they hear the word “homework,” you are actually doing them a favor by giving them the chance to explore on their own. I found that homework was necessary for requirements 3e and 4. In some cases, I had to ask students to re-do their homework before they passed the course, but about 90% of them did a satisfactory job the first time.
You need to keep students engaged and interested, but don’t go soft on them or else they won’t respect you.
I would probably say television. Most of my favorite memories of the environment were from watching interesting things in the classroom, such as Bill Nye the Science Guy. There are also many popular mainstream kid’s shows that are making an effort to teach kids about the environment.
I think the most effective method of environmental education is multi-media: physical interaction, reading, movies, etc. I think that the physical interaction with nature is paramount. People need to love something in order to want to protect it. Most people are awed and inspired by beautiful natural places and animals. I think this connection with nature and seeing the destruction of it is the most motivating.
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