Essential for Youth and Community Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, environmental education faces severe risks, jeopardizing its role in student development. Approximately 11 million US students could lose access to crucial outdoor learning experiences, raising concerns about the field's future. Pandemic-driven safety priorities led schools to sideline environmental education, often perceived as non-essential. However, research underscores nature's vital role in physical, emotional, and intellectual growth, particularly crucial during the pandemic's isolating measures. California's wildfires compounded these challenges by limiting outdoor access. Environmental education offers rich stimuli for children's development, fostering resilience and learning. Integrating outdoor experiences, even amid remote learning, is crucial, especially for young learners. Environmental educators possess the expertise to reimagine learning, suggesting restorative nature experiences, supporting families in outdoor learning, and restructuring educational norms. Leveraging their skills can redefine schooling, emphasizing outdoor classrooms and partnerships with local resources. Despite being seen as a luxury, environmental education is vital, nurturing well-being, resilience, and a positive future amid crisis. Experts advocate for environmental educators' pivotal role in shaping a brighter, nature-rich future, especially crucial during this transformative educational phase.