The Importance of Environmental Science Education

A token of inspiration and perspective I offered to the teachers who attended CONAPAC's May 2017 Environmental Science Education Workshop. The opening speech.


When astronaut Alan Shepard saw the earth from the moon for the first time, he wept, and since the first publication of the Earth in 1968, a global movement has begun with hundreds of conservation NGOs and thousands of projects to preserve nature. The awareness that we live in a beautiful world gives birth to the concern for the planet. With your help, we can awaken this awareness in thousands of students.

You, as teachers, can gain by teaching environmental sciences. It was found in a study by the National Advisory Council on Environmental Education in the United States, that academic performance improved when students studied environmental science. They gained a perspective that provided them motivation, and they performed better, not only in general science, but mathematics, reading, and social studies. In addition, students' participation increased, and as they felt more pride in their work, discipline problems in classrooms naturally disappeared.

Environmental education also improves critical thinking and basic life skills. The National Board of Science of the National Science Foundation in the United States confirmed the importance of environmental education for learning in its year 2000 report, "Environmental Sciences and Engineering for the 21st Century":

"Learning objectives must lead to knowledge and skills such as problem solving, consensus building, information management, communication, critical thinking, and creative thinking. Environmental science study provides excellent vehicles for developing and exercising many of these skills with a systems approach ... changes must be made in the formal education system to help all students, educators, and educational administrators to learn about the environment ... in relation to all academic disciplines and their daily lives."

I recently learned about an NGO that entered Puerto Maldonado, Peru to give miners machines that capture burnt mercury from smoke and re-solidify the mercury for continuous use. The miners did not accept, perhaps for lack of knowledge and a lack of a feeling of connection with nature. On the economic side, how much money are they losing in buying mercury every week? Now, there is technology to manufacture in cleaner ways that save money in the process. Modern business people are aware of environmental principles, and are looking for employees of the future who share these principles. Worldwide examples include the Tesla Corporation, which is installing roof tiles that are solar panels to charge batteries of their electric cars, Adidas is using 50% recycled material in their shoes, and Dell Corporation is sending computers with less packaging, reducing 10 million pounds of garbage since 2008. If we want to open doors for our young people, we have to prepare them for the world that exists, and the world seeks informed and skilled people.

In conclusion, we are part of nature. We are not separated. When we respect this connection in various ways, we feel fuller and happier because we are respecting and accepting who we are. Feel lucky to be able to transmit this message to youth. I ask you to think about your students when reviewing the lesson plans provided in this book. Think about how you can adopt these classes, and offer it to your students as precious gifts.

Teaching the interconnected details of our environment provides a way to build the bridge to emotional experiences that Alan Shepard felt, transforming those who take for granted into the guardians of nature. It's in your hands.

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