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What Is Environmental Education? You may have heard the term environmental education used to describe nature-based programs led by natu- ralists or scientists, such as those at parks, museums, nature centers, zoos, and aquariums. Sometimes the term is used for any classroom content about nature, animals, and plants. Other times it may describe nature exploration or lessons conducted in the out- doors. Confused? Don’t be. All of these examples are valid, in that they describe education focused on the natural environment. If you think about it, education focused on the natural environment has likely been happening in an informal way throughout human history. However, the growing recognition of serious environmental problems in the 1960s sparked the formal establish- ment of the field of environmental education. As lead- ers, scientists, and everyday citizens began attending to the fact that caring for our environment is vital for our future, they also began explicitly acknowledging that education about our environment is vital for in- forming decisions about the care of the environment. In an important milestone, world leaders convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and 2  Chapter 1 Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1975 published The Belgrade Charter: A Global Framework for Environ- mental Education, establishing the goal “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, mo- tivations and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions to current problems and the prevention of new ones” (1975, 3). This declara- tion specified that the audience for environmental edu­cation should include all people and all levels, from preschool to adult. This formative early declaration, and others like it that followed, clearly emphasize teaching about the problems facing our environment and taking ac- tions to address them. And though the importance of environmental education for all ages is stressed, this declaration is truly tailored toward adults and youth. Many early childhood educators—myself among them—recognize that a different and spe- cial approach is essential when it comes to young children. The approach for early childhood environ- mental education acknowledges that a commitment to care for the Earth cannot be taught to or coaxed out of people; rather, it springs forth naturally from an attitude of love and care for the Earth. Moreover, this approach recognizes that it is our human nature to care for what we know, enjoy, and value. There- fore, the goal of early childhood environmental edu- cation is not to study explicitly about environmental problems; rather, it is to create opportunities for the experience of wonder, comfort, and love in the natu- ral world. This philosophy of early childhood environmental education has been spelled out in great detail in Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs: Guide- lines for Excellence. That document states, among other things, that the goal of early childhood environmen- tal education is to “chart an appropriate and positive process whereby educators can start young children on their journey toward becoming environmentally responsive youth and adults” (NAAEE 2010, 3). This philosophy also builds upon an understanding of the unique development and learning stages of young chil- dren. Though the topic and scope of early childhood