Marc Stern and Robert Powell have been studying Environmental Education programming both within the NPS and beyond for years. And these researchers have uncovered a simple set of outcomes that every education program should be aiming towards – the 12 elements of EE21. These are the shared goals that Stern and Powell argue should be the aim of every educational program offered for students above the age of 10-years-old:
- Behavior Change
- Environmental Attitudes
- 21s Century Skills
- Environmental Behaviors
- Interest / Motivation
- Connection to Place
- School Behaviors
But Stern and Powell haven’t just created a list of outcomes that educational experiences should strive for; they’ve begun the hard work of figuring out what behaviors and activities help lead to these outcomes. Among their preliminary findings are:
The Power of the Group – Properly preparing groups for their visit, offering ways for them to get excited and engaged before a site visit, and trying to keep group sizes smaller and more intimate have all shown to help build toward these outcomes.
The Power of the Place – Having students engage viscerally with all their senses within the resource – in the case of environmental education the natural setting outdoors – is a key. Introducing students to novel or unique settings foreign to their everyday life can also help lead to EE21 outcomes.
The Power of the People – The educators and interpreters who interact with the students are a key to success. Speaking from personal, emotional and sincere perspectives has shown power in accomplishing EE21 outcomes. Engaging with students in a discussion and dialogue works; lectures don’t.
The Power of the Message – Clearly outlining ways students can become advocates – through small and large actions in their lives beyond the park – is a key to helping students move toward behavioral change. Offering students the opportunity to become advocates while in the resource leads to advocacy beyond it.
Stern and Powell are still hard at work on their research, studying new and emerging best practices in environmental education. Check out their website for more documents and background on how they’re continuing to discover what leads to amazing outcomes in education programming.