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Wild in the City

Emily Stoeth 2 (C) WCS

Originally appears in the Fall 2016 issue

SO YOU’RE THINKING of taking your inner-city class on a field trip to study ecology or natural spaces? I’ll bet you’re planning to travel outside of the city—perhaps to a large forest or preserve? Have you considered staying local instead? There has long been a trend in urban
environmental education (EE) to take students from urban areas into suburban or rural areas to experience “real nature.” But all this practice does is send the message that urban areas do not have enough nature to warrant study.1 We do not need to take city kids far away in order to teach them about nature and ecology.

As urbanization increases, it is all the more important that we as educators turn our focus to exploring the future of ecology—the unique biodiversity that thrives in metropolitan areas. Students in urban areas should learn about nature that is relevant to them in their everyday lives rather than what exists only in far-away places. Not only is urban EE less expensive, but more importantly, it can increase a student’s
connection to their environment and ultimately their sense of environmental stewardship. Let’s stop taking kids out of the city for nature field trips and shift our outdoor exploration focus towards city ecosystems. In this article, I hope to provide you with the essential tools to facilitate this type of unique learning with your students.

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Emily Stoeth is a Master Degree candidate at Miami University in the Advanced Inquiry Program—operated in conjunction with Project Dragonfly. She works as the Coordinator of Volunteers at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo in NYC.

Notes
1. Hashimoto-Martell, E. A., McNeill, K. L., & Hoffman, E. M. (2012). Connecting urban youth with their environment: The impact of an urban ecology course on student content knowledge, environmental attitudes and responsible behaviors. Research in Science Education, 42(5), 1007-1026.
2. Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
3. Russ, A. and Krasny, M. (2015). Urban environmental education trends. Trends in Urban Environmental Education. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab, NAAEE, and EECapacity, 12-25.
4. Ernst, J. (2007). Factors associated with K-12 teachers’ use of environment based education. Journal of Environmental Education, 38(3), 15-32.
5. Chawla, L., & Cushing, D. F. (2007). Education for Strategic Environmental Behavior. Environmental Education Research, 13(4), 437-452.
6. Russ, A. and Kransy, M. E. (2014) Urban Environmental Education. In Across the Spectrum: Resources for Environmental Educators (e book) (2nd Edition) Eds. M.C. Monroe, and M. E. Kransy. Washington, DC: NAAEE.
7. Barnett, M., Lord, C., Strauss, E., Rosca, C., Langford, H., Chavez, D., & Deni, L. (2006). Using the urban environment to engage youths in urban ecology field studies. Journal of Environmental Education, 37(2), 3-11.
8. Kudryavtsev, A., Krasny, M., & Stedman, R. (2012). The impact of environmental education on sense of place among urban youth. Ecosphere, 3(4), 1-15.
9. http://nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/
10. http://nationalgeographic.org/projects/bioblitz/education
11. www.projectwild.org/
12. https://www.plt.org/
13. Griset, O. L. (2010). Meet Us Outside! A field ecology course to engage all students in exploring environmental issues. The Science Teacher, (2). 40.

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