I knew that! Fostering environmental knowledge

Environmental Education Goal 2: Environmental knowledge

Did you know that the adult male largemouth bass eats its’ young when they hatch? If you were told that the greenhouse effect is a natural occurrence, how would you react? By the way, xylem and phloem are tree parts and not a foreign language! These are only a few environmental facts that help us understand the world we live in and create an understanding for care of the natural environment.

Michigan State University Extension will explore the second goal of Environmental Education (EE) as determined by the Tblisi Declaration of 1977, is knowledge. The goal states: to help social groups and individuals gain a variety of experience in, and acquire a basic understanding of, the environment and its associated problems. This seems to be the nuts and bolts of Environmental Education. Ecological knowledge is critical to understanding the world we live in. How else can we care for something we don’t understand? There are numerous studies dedicated to the various sciences from astrology to zoology and everything in between!

Environmental knowledge gives us the basis for what we know about the natural environment. At a minimum, all citizens should have a grasp of basic ecological principles. Think about the things you use on a daily basis. They all inevitably have their origins somehow related to the environment and natural resources. Water, soil, air and plants are all natural resources we use regularly but often take for granted. Aldo Leopold cautioned us years ago about the inherent danger of thinking that food comes from the grocery store and heat from the furnace! The flow of energy, elements of biology, water science (limnology), ecology and more are all important to help us understand and perhaps encourage us to want to know more!

People know more about ecological principles than they think and should be encouraged to share their knowledge with youth. Studies show youth are spending less time outdoors, so adults have a golden opportunity to pass on what they know to the next generation. Imagine sharing with youth a fresh buck scrape, young fiddlehead ferns, finding an ovenbird nest or watching maple seeds “helicopter” to the ground. Next, imagine the dialogue you can have discussing how or why these discoveries occurred. There is so much to find that each trip out can be a new adventure.

The same information that helps us achieve basic ecological knowledge also helps us better understand environmental problems. How else would we know what’s wrong unless we know what’s right? Attaining some level of environmental knowledge keeps us connected to the land and maintains that all important environmental sensitivity.

Our thirst for environmental knowledge should not falter and may need a refresher. There are many great resources out there. Some of the classics to read include “A Sand County Almanac,” “Silent Spring,” “The Singing Wilderness” and “Walden.”  Then again, maybe all it takes is a walk outside and don’t forget to bring along a youth! 

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