Helping Children Discover Meaning through Environmental Education: A Sample Review of the Literature

Christina Zalla, Kimberly Yates


Social interaction, freedom of choice, and hands-on activities can make the difference in helping children make meaning of the world around them. This sample review of existing literature looks at three studies that explore what factors most influenced children’s ability to make meaning through participation in environmental education programs. Articles were selected based on their relevance to the topics of making meaning and environmental education programming. The studies concluded that factors critical to children’s engagement and ability to make meaning from their experiences included their opportunities for informal social interaction, freedom of personal choice, and extent of hands-on learning activities. The studies affirmed that, for maximum benefit, environmental educators can and should challenge and inspire students to pursue their own learning. Similar research should be undertaken in more environmental settings, across wider age-ranges of children, and over longer periods of time. Future studies should also explore how best to overcome the learning barriers often present in outdoor environments. As educators, the more we know about what works well, and why, the more we can tailor meaningful, impactful experiences that best fuel the curiosity, engagement and learning of our students.

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Copyright (c) 2020 Christina Zalla, Kimberly Yates

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