Education

Knowing is Caring

People don’t harm the environment because they hate trees and love pollution. When we are unfamiliar with natural processes, it is easy to misunderstand how our actions affect the natural world. Environmental education provides us with the opportunity to avoid harmful environmental activities in the future while also increasing support for the current conservation of imperiled ecosystems.

 

The environment is still a part of everyday life for many communities around the world—surely they learn about it just through exposure? Well, yes and no. Many natural processes are subtle and hard to notice, so people often develop an imbalanced view of the environment based on more obvious, often extreme, events. This pattern is especially pronounced for populations in highly urbanizaed areas, who interact less with nature and are more likely to develop their impressions from sensational news stories.

 

Our direct interactions with nature shape our perceptions of the environment. These direct interactions tend to represent extremes in our relationship with the natural world, however. A farmer may see a potential source of income when he looks at a plot of forest: money can be made by selling logging rights and raising livestock in the cleared area. Later, a severe drought leads to the death of half of the farmer’s livestock. Even more of his animals are killed by a jaguar. How do you think this farmer will feel about nature?

Jaguars, Panthera onca, may kill livestock when their natural prey becomes scarce ©Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr

What our farmer is missing are the indirect interactions between him and nature. He doesn’t see that the forest he cleared was helping create local weather patterns, and the loss of trees meant that less water was going into the atmosphere, causing the drought. The farmer will know about his livestock that was killed by a jaguar, but maybe not that the jaguar can’t find enough wild food without the forest the farmer cleared.

 

Environmental education makes these indirect effects more obvious, allowing us to properly address development in a sustainable way without losing important ecosystem services. Learning about ecosystems additionally increases support for conservation because we care about what we know about.

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Benefits of Environmental Education

Children in school today will grow up in a very different world than we know now. As environmental pressures and climate change intensify, there will be many new obstacles for us to overcome. Environmental education prepares students to respond to these obstacles as well as take advantage of new opportunities in sustainable development and conservation. Other benefits include:

  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Providing opportunities for people to research and draw their own conclusions on complex issues develops critical thinking skills for informed consumers and workers.

  • Improving Academic Performance
  • Students improve in every subject when environmental education is part of the curriculum because teachers can integrate multiple topics into a single lesson or activity.

  • Personal Growth
  • Studying the environment helps individuals improve their imagination and creativity while simultaneously building confidence, autonomy, and leadership skills.

  • Health Improvements
  • Reducing pollution and mitigating climate change improves the quality of our air and water to make everyone healthier. Students also get outside and active to reduce the prevalence of obesity, attention deficit disorders, stress, and depression.

  • Empowerment
  • By observing how social and environmental issues are interconnected, individuals are better situated to control their own lives and engage with important policy decisions.

  • Community Improvement
  • Addressing local environmental issues brings people into contact with a variety of community members and promotes a sense of ownership and belonging in the landscape.

What We’re Doing

Group Presentations

We’re always willing to share our story and the natural wonders of Panama.

Community Events

Families, tourists, hobbyists—nature is accessible for everyone.

Citizen Science

Scientists of all ages and backgrounds can learn to contribute data.

Field Trips

Because some things only make sense when you experience them yourself.

Workshops

Our biologists can help teach your students important field study techniques.