The History and Philosophy of Environmental Education

  • Robert L. CarterEmail author
  • Bora Simmons


Environmental education (EE) is a powerful educational tool with a complex and somewhat tumultuous history. Since its rise to relative prominence in the 1970s, it has often been misunderstood with regard to its exact definition, its origins, its objectives, its goals, and often its value to society and K-12 education. The primary contributing factors to this dilemma may be the broad set of disciplines from which EE sprang, from which it continues to draw, and its relationship to other disciplines and fields of study. The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of uniform terminology applied to EE and many related areas of study and practice. This chapter traces the historical and philosophical development of the field, relates environmental education as presently practiced to the mosaic of K-12 education with a focus on its relationship to science education, and lays the groundwork for further discussion of EE’s place in the education of teachers of science for the twenty-first century.


Environmental Science Environmental Education Nature Study Environmental Literacy National Science Teacher Association 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Archie, M. (2003). Advancing education through environmental literacy. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Google Scholar
  2. Broda, H. (2007). Schoolyard-enhanced learning: Using the outdoors as an instructional tool, K-8. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.Google Scholar
  3. Carson, R., Darling, L., & Darling, L. (1962). Silent spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  4. Carter, R. (2006). Listening to the soloists in the choir: A study of the life experience of exemplary K-12 environmental educators. Doctoral dissertation, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL.Google Scholar
  5. Chase, C. (1985). A chronology of environmental education: Please throw stones at this author. Nature Study, 38(2–3), 21–22, 25.Google Scholar
  6. Chase, A. (1988, November). Scientific breakdown: The cultural weakness behind our ecological failures. Outside, pp. 45–47.Google Scholar
  7. Chawla, L. (2003). Bonding with the natural world: The roots of environmental awareness. NAMTA Journal, 28(1), 133–154.Google Scholar
  8. Christofferson, B. (2004). The man from Clear Lake: Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  9. Disinger, J. F. (1985). What research says: Environmental education’s definitional problem. School Science and Mathematics, 85(1), 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Disinger, J. (2001). K-12 education and the environment: Perspectives, expectations, and practice. The Journal of Environmental Education, 33(1), 4 –11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Drummond, A. (1995). Enos Mills: Citizen of nature. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Press.Google Scholar
  12. Environmental Education Act. (1970). P.L. No. 91-516, 84 Stat. 1312.Google Scholar
  13. Finch, L. B. (2008). Legacies of Camelot: Stewart and Lee Udall, American culture, and the arts. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gottlieb, R. (1995). Beyond NEPA and Earth Day: Reconstructing the past and envisioning a future for environmentalism. Environmental History Review, 19(4), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. H.R. 3036, 110th Cong. § 2 (2008).Google Scholar
  16. Hall, S. (2005). Peace and freedom: The civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hammerman, E. (1979). A Delphi formulation of environmental education objectives (Doctoral dissertation, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, 1979). Dissertation Abstracts International, 40, 2447.Google Scholar
  18. Hammerman, W. (1980). Fifty years of resident outdoor education 1930-1980: Its impact on American education. Martinsville, IN: The American Camping Association.Google Scholar
  19. Hammerman, D. R., Hammerman, W. M., & Hammerman, E. L. (2001). Teaching in the outdoors (5th ed.). Danville, IL: Interstate Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Holsman, R. (2001). The politics of environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 32(2), 4–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kline, B. (2007). First along the river: A brief history of the U.S. environmental movement (3rd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  22. Kraft, M. (2000). U.S. environmental policy and politics: From the 1960s to the 1990s. In O. Graham (Ed.), Environmental politics and policy, 1960s – 1990s. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.Google Scholar
  23. Kuo, F., & Taylor, A. (2004). A potential natural treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580–1586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leopold, A. (1949). A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ling, P. (2000). Racism for lunch. History Today, 50(2), 36–38.Google Scholar
  26. Lookingbill, B. (2001). Dust bowl, USA. Athens, OH: University of Ohio Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lorbiecke, M. (1996). Aldo Leopold: A fierce green fire. Helena, MT: Falcon Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.Google Scholar
  29. Lytle, M. H. (2007). The gentle subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent spring, and the rise of the environmental movement. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Meine, C. (1988). Aldo Leopold: His life and work. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  31. Minton, T. G. (1980). The history of the nature study movement and its role in the development of environmental education. Dissertation Abstracts International, 41, 967. (UMI No. 8019480)Google Scholar
  32. NAAEE. (2004a). Environmental education materials: Guidelines for excellence. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  33. NAAEE. (2004b). Excellence in environmental education: Guidelines for learning (K–12). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  34. NAAEE. (2004c). Guidelines for the preparation and professional development of environmental educators. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  35. NAAEE. (2007). Standards for the initial preparation of environmental educators. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  36. Nash, R. (1989). The rights of nature: A history of environmental ethics. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  37. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 (2004).Google Scholar
  38. National Science Teachers Association. (1970). Programs in environmental education. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  39. National Science Teachers Association. (2003). NSTA position statement: Environmental education. Retrieved July 15, 2008 from,
  40. Nixon, R. (1970). President’s message to the Congress of the United States. In Environmental quality, the first annual report of the Council on Environmental Quality, together with the President’s message to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 062 109)Google Scholar
  41. Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981. P. L. No. 97–35, 95 Stat. 357.Google Scholar
  42. Raven, P., Berg, L., & Hassenzahl, D. (2008). Environment (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  43. Reed, A. L. (1986). Race, politics, and culture: Critical essays on the radicalism of the 1960s. Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies, No. 95. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  44. Resnick, D., & Resnick, L. (1983). Improving educational standards in American schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 65(3), 178–180.Google Scholar
  45. Rivkin, M. (2000). Outdoor experiences for young children. (ERIC Digest No. ED448 013)Google Scholar
  46. Rome, A. (2003). Give Earth a chance: The Environmental movement and the sixties. Journal of American History, 90(2), 525–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roth, C. (2008). Paul F-Brandwein lecture 2006: Conservation education for the 21st century and beyond. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(3), 211–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sharp, L. B., & Partridge, E. (Eds.). (1947). Camping and outdoor education. The Bulletin of the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, 31(147).Google Scholar
  49. Simmons, D. (1995). The NAAEE standards project: Papers on the development of environmental education standards. Troy, OH: North American Association for Environmental Education.Google Scholar
  50. Stapp, W. (Ed.). (1978). From ought to action in environmental education. A report of the National Leadership Conference on Environmental Education, Washington, DC, March 28–30, 1978. Ohio State University Information Resource Center for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education. (ERIC No. ED 159 046)Google Scholar
  51. Stapp, W., Havlick, S., Bennett, D., Bryan, W., Jr., Fulton, J., MacGregor, J., et al. (1969). The concept of environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 1(1), 30–31.Google Scholar
  52. Stegner, W. (1990). It all began with conservation. Smithsonian, 21(1), 35–43.Google Scholar
  53. Swan, M. (1975). Forerunners of environmental education. In N. McInnis & D. Albrecht (Eds.), What makes education environmental? Medford, NJ: Plexus.Google Scholar
  54. Udall, S. L. (1963). The quiet crisis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  55. UNEP. (1972). Stockholm declaration on the human environment. United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, Sweden, 1972. New York: United Nations Environment Programme.Google Scholar
  56. UNESCO. (1948). Proceedings of the conference for the establishment of the International Union for the Protection of Nature. Paris: Author.Google Scholar
  57. UNESCO. (1978). Final report, Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education, organized by UNESCO in cooperation with UNEP, Tbilisi, USSR, 14–26 October 1977. Paris: Author.Google Scholar
  58. UNESCO-UNEP. (1976). The Belgrade Charter. Connect: UNESCO-UNEP Environmental Education Newsletter, 1(1), 1–2.Google Scholar
  59. Warren, L. (Ed.). (2003). American environmental history. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching and Learning, College of EducationNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA
  2. 2.Institute for a Sustainable EnvironmentUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

Personalised recommendations