Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department

Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies

Faculty Mentor

Peter McDonough


Environmental Education, Nature-Based Education, Empathy-Based Education, Sustainability, Education, Empathy

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies


As climate change persists and new generations are inducted into positions responsible for adaptation, it is vital that children are educated about the environment in a way that will create long-lasting motivation to address these environmental issues. This paper analyzes the methods most effective in environmental education, answering the question: what components of elementary-level education inspire children to be stewards of the earth rather than invoke fear for the future? To answer this question a series of literature was reviewed through which three themes emerged as important components of environmental education: age, exposure to nature, and cultivation of empathy. Developmental changes result in differing levels of understanding and interest, and therefore environmental education curricula should change based on age group (Sobel, 2013; Walker, 2017). Exposure to nature has been shown to increase children’s environmental attitudes and behaviors, making it a key factor of effective environmental education ((Sobel, 2013; Otto & Pensini, 2017; Collado & Coraliza, 2020). Finally, the cultivation of empathy gives children motivation to address environmental issues because they have something meaningful to fight for (Sobel, 2013; Lithoxoidou et al, 2017). This research is necessary because climate change is a pressing issue that all people will be confronted with at some point in their lives; Therefore, it is important to arm children with the tools they need to address these issues.

Honors College Research Project


GLI Capstone Project




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