International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education

Outdoor Kid

The International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education is new; it’s third issue has been published.  It is published by the North American Association for Environmental Education, an organization dedicated to bringing the brightest minds together to advance environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education to create a more sustainable future for all. As it’s title suggests, this journal is focussed on environmental education for little kids.

The Journal’s Vision

The editors, Yash Bhagwanji of Florida Atlantic University and Bora Simmons of the University of Oregon, say:

 

“We envision the journal will serve as a forum to: (a) encourage thoughtful sharing of information about important concepts, epistemologies, frameworks,IJECEE Cover research methodologies, and guiding values, as well as effective practices and policies in early childhood environmental education, and (b) reach an extensive global readership in order to maximize the impact of the thoughtful information. Avenues for the sharing of information may be book reviews, descriptions of educational approaches and programs, research investigations, and development or interpretation of theoretical perspectives. Associations among and between the following variables will be of great interest:

    •  Young children
    •  Family circumstances
    •  Community opportunities
    •  Policy mandates or recommendations
    •  Environmental activities, education, or experiences
    •  Mechanisms or processes related to knowledge acquisition
    •  Attachment or maintenance of affective dispositions
    •  Abilities, behaviors, or skills development related to good decision making in a range of environmental contexts;
    •  Cognitive, economic, and social influences or impacts; and
    •  Assessment and evaluation methods.”

“Original research investigations are especially needed. Towards that end, we hope the journal will serve as an important medium in (a) encouraging quality research and thinking, and (b) contributing both conceptual and methodological innovations to the body of literature. Studying the complexities among environmental and social systems, and making links to policy and practice at multiple levels that are most appropriate for young children is the intention.”

What’s the Point?

Ruth Wilson, writing in Starting Early: Environmental Education during the Early Childhood Years says, “Because young children learn about the environment by interacting with it, educators and other adults must attend to the frequency, nature, and quality of child-environment interactions during the early years.”  She adds, “The rationale for environmental education during the early childhood years is based on two major premises. The first premise is that children must develop a sense of respect and caring for the natural environment during their first few years of life or be at risk for never developing such attitudes. The rationale for environmental education at the early childhood level is also based on the premise that positive interactions with the natural environment is an important part of healthy child development.”  The science, even in 1996 when this paper was published, strongly supports these ideas.

The point of the International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education is to support and share further research on all aspects of early childhood education and, ultimately, improve our interactions with kids to help them develop in a healthy manner and, at the same time, build a natural respect for the world around them.

Wilson concludes:

 

“Young children tend to develop an emotional attachment to what is familiar and comfortable to them. If they are to develop a sense of connectedness with the natural world, they need frequent positive experiences with the outdoors. Providing opportunities for such experiences and sharing them with young children is the essence of what environmental education is all about. Rachel Carson, in ‘The Sense of Wonder,’ was one of the first to articulate the importance and characteristics of environmental education at the early childhood level. In her words, ‘If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Environmental education for the early years focuses primarily on young children exploring and enjoying the world of nature under the guidance and with the companionship of caring adults.

How You Got Here

If you are reading this and the other articles in our blog and eMagazine you have some interest in being outdoors.  Many of us picked up that interest at a very young age.  In many cases it was a parent that first exposed us to the outdoors.  My mother was fond of saying “go outside and play” to us, even as a pre-schoolers.  She was still quite cautious for us, providing a fenced area for play and keeping a close watch on our activities. Our whole family enjoyed a variety of outdoor vacations and adventures and I recall them from a very young age.

If you think back, chances are you will recognize the same type of early influence in your life.  The thing is that these days kids are not getting that early exposure to nature as we did.  As more people congregate in urban areas and as parents and even very young kids focus on screens instead of the real world this early connection is being lost.  Encouraging you to get your toddlers outdoors is probably not a worthwhile endeavor – more than likely you are already doing that.  Many others are not and that leads to the importance of early childhood environmental education.  Teaching educators and parents, some of whom may not have had this kind of experience, is really what the research is about — setting kids off on the path that you followed and led you here.

Peer Reviewed — Freely Available

Besides being peer reviewed, to increase the quality of its content,  the journal is freely available in its entirety.  You can download all the available issues in PDF format free at: naturalstart.org/research.  Scan the table of contents and you are likely to find some aspect of this type of research that piques your interest.

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