Incorporating Eco-education into Early Childhood


Environmental educations in a childhood education system always involve practices that expose the children to the natural environment, but this is not what everybody foresees as some thinkers strongly oppose it because (1) incorporating environmental education is challenging given the negative public opinion and the political environment (Hudson 283); (2) U.S is lagging behind other industrialized countries in science and mathematics in recently released statistics, hence much attention should be devoted to developing this area, rather than just the concern with environment (Kerr 1); (3) there is no enough scientific evidence behind the environmental concerns shared by the environmentalists (Hudson 283); (4) exposing children to tons of information about the environment rather than what the nature provides is unwise (Kerr 1).

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The first argument against eco-education into early childhood would not thrive in an opposing public opinion and political environment (Hudson 283). Policy makers and schools have been reluctant to incorporate environmental studies into the curriculum. Incorporating environmental education is challenging given the negative public opinion and the political environment. The American population understands climate change and other environmental issues but they do not see it as a threat to the America people (Hudson 284).The climate change and environmental problems do not warrant the need for states spending funds in implementing environmental education. The implementation requires both revisions of the curriculum, which requires legislation and training teachers on environmentalism. The political system also has contradicting views on climate change. The U.S President Trump maintains that climate change is not real (Alana). He believes that the hurricanes being witnessed are catastrophic events not related to climatic change. The U.S President withdrew from The Paris Accord in June 2017 with reasons that it will undermine the U.S economy (Alana). President Trump’s views indicate that he does not see the need for environmental education.

Secondly, there is an overarching concern that the U.S. is lagging behind other industrialized countries in science and mathematics in recently released statistics (Kerr 1). Why should states invest in environmental educational instead of improving the core subjects? Although environmental studies can influence career paths of students, the common core subjects greatly determine the success of a child through the education system. For that reason, teachers are challenged on how to incorporate environmental studies. The American education system operates under a standards-heavy, high-risk assessment system making it hard for teachers to incorporate environmental education into their teaching.

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The third argument maintains that there is not enough scientific evidence behind the environmental concerns shared by the environmentalists. Anti-eco education movements claim that the loss of diversity and declining aquatic health are not worth worrying about (Hudson 284). These contradictory thoughts towards environmental protection are obstacles to implementation of environmental studies. Environmental education is also likely not to bring a significant difference on the view of the environment because most of the education materials and educators mostly emphasize on the damage people have made to the environment creating a feeling of despair among the students.

Lastly, a contemporary child has access to tons of information about the environment than what nature provides (Kerr 1). Many television programs provide a contemporary child with environmental information. Kim and Lim (42-45) indicate that the interaction of a child with the environment promotes healthy mental growth. This implies that they ought to be given sufficient knowledge about nature, but doing this means that they would be exposed to too much information. This gives them loads of knowledge at early stage in learning, which sometimes they may not withstand.

However, there is a need to determine the effectiveness and impact of environmental education to influence decisions on the incorporation of environmental education into the curriculum. It is important to consider the impacts of its implementation on standard subjects – mathematics, science, language. Early childhood educators to allow children to interact with the environment can utilize outdoor learning. The outdoor teaching incorporates play based learning paradigms (Cutter-Mackenzie and Edwards 198). The major form of play-based learning approach that has been widely used is the open-ended approach. In the open-ended play approach, children learn on their own through imagination, imitation and critical thinking. As they openly play they learn about themselves, their interests and their environment; people, animals, plants, and structures around them. With the increasing campaigns to incorporate environmental education into the curriculum, the open play approach has been found not to provide the children the opportunity to acquire knowledge that allows them to build the understanding of the environment. Environmental education is mostly being undertaken as an outdoor activity without emphasizing on the environmental knowledge. Designing a good play-based learning approach is necessary to ensure that children acquire the environmental knowledge which then forms a basis to start discussions on the need for sustainability

According to Kim and Lin, exposing young children to the environment is beneficial to their health (42-45). Cognitive development has been associated with the exposure to the environment. Some therapies use nature on children with cognitive disorders such as autism to help them develop their cognitive skills. It is natural to for children to feel excited and relaxed when exploring nature and playing with children Interaction with the environment is a physical activity, which is good for child development. Generally, exposing children to the environment at an early age improves their understanding of the environment. These children grow up carrying the knowledge and attitude into their understanding of the environment and develop commitment towards sustainability. When children are allowed to openly play, the interaction with the natural environment helps children acquire the concepts of diversity and learn to respect and humanely treat other living creatures. They then form a bond with nature, embrace it and develop a strong attachment to it. This attachment makes the children not to be afraid of nature. Environmental education also improves children’s thinking skills.

In conclusion, environmental education in early childhood allows children to associate with and understand the natural environment. Studies should be conducted to ensure that best practices are adopted for the efficient implementation of environmental education.

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  1. Alana, Abramson. “Donald Trump’s Climate Change Opinion Hasn’t Changed.” Time, Time, 12 Sept. 2017.
  2. Cutter-Mackenzie, Amy, and Susan Edwards. “Toward a model for early childhood environmental education: Foregrounding, developing, and connecting knowledge through play-based learning.” The Journal of Environmental Education 44.3 (2013): 195-213.
  3. Hudson, Stewart J. “Challenges for Environmental Education: Issues and Ideas for the 21st Century.” BioScience, vol. 51, no. 4, 2001, p. 283.,
  4. Kerr, Jennifer. “Internationally, U.S Students Are Failing.” U.S. News, 6 Dec. 2016.
  5. Kim, Eunju, and Jaetack Lim. “Eco-Early Childhood Education: A New Paradigm of Early Childhood Education in South Korea.”  Young  Children, vol. 62, no. 6, 2007, pp. 42-45.
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