Environmental Education in Minnesota

Colleen Schoenecker
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

What is environmental education?

The field of environmental education (EE) began to take shape in the 1970s as the international community gathered to address worldwide environmental problems. Out of these meetings came two landmark documents — the Belgrade Charter (UNESCOUNEP, 1976) and the Tbilisi Declaration (UNESCO, 1978) — which laid the foundation for EE. The Belgrade Charter was adopted by a United Nations conference, and provides a widely accepted goal statement for environmental education:

The goal of environmental education is to develop a world population that is aware of and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones.

Building on the Belgrade Charter, the Tbilisi Declaration established three broad goals for environmental education. These goals provide the foundation for much of what has been done in the field since 1978:

  • To foster clear awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas;
  • To provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment, and skills needed to protect and improve the environment; and
  • To create new patterns of behavior of individuals, groups, and society as a whole toward the environment.
  • As EE has evolved, these principles have been researched, critiqued, revisited, and expanded, and still stand today as the backbone of environmental education.

EE in Minnesota

The emergence and evolution of EE in Minnesota parallels the national and international EE movement. In 1971, by executive order, Governor Wendell Anderson established the Minnesota Environmental Education Council. This group conducted a study that resulted in the first Minnesota state plan for environmental education which was published in 1972. The state plan was written to offer guidance and direction for educators, the EE community, and government as they work towards the state’s environmental education goals.

Minnesota has revised its EE state plan four times since 1972. Today, A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State Plan For Environmental Education, Third Edition is a ten year plan (2008–2018) that serves as the guiding document for EE in Minnesota. The GreenPrint Third Edition and the three state plans before it have all been written to help educators bring their audiences closer to the state goals for environmental education. Because of the evolving nature of environmental education, GreenPrint Third Edition recommends that environmental educators target their programs and plans toward achieving environmental literacy for all Minnesotans.

In 1992 a grassroots movement began to further grow and complement Minnesota’s EE community. Several EE professionals gathered at the state EE conference and formed the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE), a non-profit professional organization. The mission of MAEE is to support and strengthen environmental education throughout the state. As a professional association, MAEE continues today to assist and support the work of individuals engaged in EE and to represent the EE community on relevant issues and legislation.

Read Up

Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence, by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), 1996 (revised 2004, 2009).

Evaluating Your Environmental Education Programs: A Workbook for Practitioners, by Julie A. Ernst, Martha C. Monroe, and Bora Simmons, North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), 2009.

When A Butterfly Sneezes: A Guide for Helping Kids Explore Interconnections in Our World Through Favorite Stories, by Linda Booth Sweeney, Pegasus Communications, 2001.

Act Locally

Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE)

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)

Environmental Education

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