Date of this Version
The New Educator (2017) 13(3): 207-233. DOI: 10.1080/1547688X.2017.1331095.
This article describes an early childhood teacher-preparation program that infuses environmental education and nature experiences into courses, practicum, and student-teaching experiences. Program philosophy, pedagogy, materials, and methods are described and linked to the Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence, the Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators, and state-level early learning guidelines that focus on connecting young children with nature. Preservice teachers build knowledge, skills, and dispositions for effective environmental education beginning from an awareness level and progressing to application and refinement. The value of nature is communicated explicitly and implicitly throughout the program. Preliminary analysis of student outcomes indicated that, over the course of the program, students’ ratings of the importance of nature and science experiences and outcomes increased, along with their confidence implementing environmental-education activities. There is growing interest in nature and environmental education (EE) in early childhood. Guidelines for Excellence have been published for early childhood education (North American Association for Environmental Education [NAAEE], 2010a), and the North American Association for Environmental Education has added a “Connecting Kids and Nature” track to the annual conference. Several books have been published on connecting young children with nature (e.g., Davis, 2010; Ward, 2008; Wilson, 2012) and early childhood EE curricula have been developed by Project Learning Tree and Project Wild (Council for Environmental Education, 2009; Project Learning Tree, 2010). A professional development program focusing on discovering nature with young children has been funded by the National Science Foundation (Chalufour & Worth, 2003) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children published a compilation of articles on nature and EE in early childhood (Shillady, 2011). A rating scale designed to assess EE in early childhood has also been published (Bhagwanji, 2011). You know things are getting serious when we start measuring!
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