Bridging the Gap: A Case Study in Effective Environmental Education

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Gordon Geballe
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In recent decades, environmental education has been hailed as an up-and-coming field. Tasked with instructing a wide base of young learners, environmental education is a tool through which to realize positive change in future generations. More recently, the field has seen growth in interest in experiential environmental education. This subset, purposefully conducted in an outdoor environment, encourages students to actively participate in a process of exploration and discovery of environmental topics, processes, and issues. The present study is an effort to evaluate the success of NatureBridge, an environmental education organization which has exhibited great longevity in the field, and from its accomplishments, form lessons for two other comparable but different organizations, Common Ground’s Environmental Education Center and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. I evaluate NatureBridge’s effectiveness through five concrete dimensions of success: 1) training of educators; 2) strong core program; 3) sustainable business model; 4) collaboration with the National Park Service; and 5) evaluative processes. I will explore how these dimensions apply in unique ways to the two other organizations, while remaining mindful of the significant differences in the histories, cultures, and missions of each.