by Lorna Pettifer
Group Manager – Education and Training

I have been reflecting on this question lately as my job is designing and managing CERES education programs that are IN, ABOUT and FOR the environment. Many environmental educators are motivated to be in this field due to an early connection with nature as a child. Forming an early appreciation of natural, wild places and animals helps to fortify a passion to advocate for the environment later in life. Teachers have the privilege to help shape young minds, and the opportunity to help them to want to make the world a better place.

Research and anecdotal evidence shows that the younger generation is becoming disconnected with nature. Planet Ark published an article in 2011 Climbing trees: Getting Aussie Kids Outdoors” with a shocking statistic that within one generation 73% of parents played outdoors more than indoors, compared to 13% of their children. It also stated that 1 in 10 children play outside once a week or less. So if nature play is not happening as much at home, this puts a greater emphasis on what is needed in an educational setting. Nature Play has been a recent environmental education catch phrase; work to promote nature connection is active and educators are responding. Nature play week (April 6 – 17, 2016) and National Tree Day (31 July 2016) are great examples of current initiatives that are providing opportunities for nature connections and a ground swell for action.

As a teacher, what is a good way to approach this and link to developmental stages of learning?

David Sobel in “Beyond Ecophobia – Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education describes it as being in the right place at the right time. He breaks this down into 3 different development stages. One of the most important stages being seven to eleven, which is said to shape a person and interestingly is the time where connection to nature through exploration is highlighted.

“Empathy between the child and the natural world can be a main objective for children ages three through seven.

Exploration marks the phase from ages seven to eleven. This is the time to immerse children in the stuff of the physical and natural worlds.

Social Action appropriately begins around age eleven and certainly extends beyond age fourteen.”

An easy place to start is linking in with an established event like to the two mentioned above or an initiative that has resources and ideas available to support you on things to do with your students. Also see upcoming professional development opportunities below and on the Sustainability Hub.

I would like to leave you with quotes from friends and colleagues working in environmental education. I asked them “Why is environmental education important?” and received inspirational responses.

Anthony Mangelsdorf, 2015 Victorian Environment Educator of the year and ResourceSmart Schools Project Manager in Barwon South West Region shared two quotes, one he wrote and one from Environmentalist, David Orr –

“Environmental education is important to help us learn to live in a way that is mindful of the fact that we humans are actually just one small part of the much larger, but not infinite, Earth.”
Anthony Mangelsdorf, 2015

“All education is environmental education – by what is included or excluded, students are taught that they are part of or apart from the natural world”.
David Orr , 1994

Kate Greer, the Education Manager from Sustainability Victoria, and Kirsty Costa from Cool Australia also answer the question –

“Environmental Education is important because we all need to be prepared for the challenges we face with a changing climate. This requires an ongoing commitment to building skills and knowledge in adults, youth and children to understand and value our environment.”
Kate Greer, 2015

“Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Environmental education develops capabilities, skills and knowledge in powerful ways. It supports people to expand their critical thinking, reflection and evaluation skills. Plus environmental education helps cultivate optimism, hope and resilience.”
Kirsty Costa, 2015

CERES is delivering our exciting Environmental Education Course. This short course takes on an industry immersive approach to help educators and people who want to learn how to better communicate about the environment. The course starts 28 April 2016, running over 8 sessions. Teachers are eligible to attend Sessions 2 – 6 as individual PD Days if they cannot commit to the full 8 days. Please see a summary of the course below and register your interest through Luisa on or (03) 9389 0124.

Course Outline

Register your interest by contacting Luisa on (03) 9389 0124 or via email at

By CERES Education – Outreach Team|2017-11-06T18:32:33+10:00July 14th, 2015|0 Comments