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Conservation Leadership - Action 4

Action: Increase the practice of quality environmental education in Connecticut’s schools and conservation organizations.

What is it?

CFPA is a statewide leader in providing training and expertise in the environmental education field by modeling high quality, effective environmental education, with a strong focus on forest conservation.  CFPA utilizes Project Learning Tree (PLT), an award-winning national environmental education program designed for teachers, other educators, and community leaders who work with youth from preschool through grade 12. CFPA is the co-leader of PLT CT (a combination of PLT curriculum and Connecticut-specific programs) with the CT DEEP.

CFPA recognized in 1986 that the PLT curriculum was closely aligned with CFPA’s initiatives and goals. To continually improve the practice of environmental education, CFPA is re-designing two key elements of our education offerings:

  1. Pursuing Statewide Environmental Education Certification:  Today, participants in PLT CT workshops receive a certificate for completion of coursework, but we would like to see this grow into a professional certificate in Environmental Education (this has been done in eight states including Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Maryland, but no New England states to date).   
  2. Implementing “On the Road and In the Woods”: CFPA is creating field kits for trained volunteer activity leaders to use in classrooms and on afterschool venues (including trails) with youth groups, scout programs, etc.

Why is it important?

Since our 1896 statement of purpose, CFPA has worked to “encourage the study of forestry and kindred topics in schools,” and environmental education continues to be a key way to connect people of all ages to the land. The benefits of quality environmental education include the following:

  • Enthusiastic Students, Innovative Teacher-Leaders – environmental education offers opportunities for rich, hands-on, real world, and relevant learning (Archie, 2003).
  • Strong Critical Thinking Skills - Environment-based education emphasizes specific critical thinking skills central to “good science”—questioning, investigating, forming hypotheses, interpreting data, analyzing, developing conclusions, and solving problems (Archie, 2003).
  • Development of Leadership Qualities - Environmental education emphasizes cooperative learning (i.e., working in teams or with partners), critical thinking and discussion, hands-on activities, and a focus on action strategies with real-world applications (NAAEE & NEETF, 2001).

What will the impact be?

CFPA’s continued leadership on environmental education is making a difference today, and it will also have significant impacts for Connecticut in the future:

  • Connecticut residents of all ages will be better equipped to think critically on land and forest issues; 
  • Teachers and students will utilize local facilities and forests as environmental learning labs;
  • Environmental literacy will increase in Connecticut;
  • Professional development for educators will include rich environmental content; and
  • A knowledgeable, engaged citizenry will support environmentally-sound decisions about forests, land use, environmental laws, and other conservation topics at both local and state levels.