North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE)
For more than four decades, NAAEE has been a leader in promoting excellence in environmental education throughout North America. It is the only national membership organization dedicated to strengthening the field of environmental education and increasing the visibility and effectiveness of the profession. NAAEE’s influence stretches across North America and around the world, with members in more than 30 countries. NAAEE and its 54 state, provincial, and regional Affiliate organizations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico have more than 16,000 members. These members are professionals with environmental education responsibilities and interests across business, government, higher education, formal (K–12) education, nonformal education, early childhood education, science education and STEM, and other sectors of society.
Find locations served, office locations, manufacturers and our distributors.
- Business Type:
- Professional association
- Industry Type:
- Market Focus:
- Globally (various continents)
- Year Founded:
A sustainable future for all where environmental and social responsibility drive individual and institutional choices.
We bring the brightest minds together to accelerate environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education.
Our work is based on more than five decades of research about what motivates individuals, organizations, and communities to learn, take action, and create positive societal change. It is also based on the latest thinking about what makes associations and nongovernmental organizations more effective, and how to collaboratively and effectively scale up our collective impact.
For more than four decades, NAAEE has served as the professional association, champion, and backbone organization for the field of environmental education, working with a diverse group of educators in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to advance environmental education. Our audiences include those who reach others, including teachers and naturalists, researchers, conservationists, outdoor educators, scientists and science educators, resource and environmental managers, environmentalists, foundations and corporations, and others who care about how education and engagement can help create a more environmentally informed, committed, and active citizenry. Read NAAEE Thirty Years of History, 1971-2001.
NAAEE is proud of our many accomplishments to elevate environmental education as a primary strategy for creating lasting environmental change. Below are some highlights, none of which could have been achieved without the incredible support of our many valued partners and funders(link is external).
Since 1972, NAAEE has hosted the largest annual conference in North America expressly dedicated to advancing professional innovation, networking, tools and resources, and dissemination of best practices in environmental education. With more than 1,000 EE professionals from 25 countries represented, the NAAEE conference is a learning and networking hub for EE. Learn more about this year’s conference.
Promoting Effective Practice
NAAEE’s National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education has produced the Guidelines for Excellence, five sets of widely accepted national guidelines for environmental education materials, K–12 students, educators, nonformal programs, and early childhood learning. A sixth set of guidelines for working in community EEcommunities programs is in development and will provide options and opportunity for community building within the framework of environmental programming.g.
Leadership and Capacity Building
As a partner in the EPA-supported national training program since 1992, NAAEE has managed multiple initiatives to nurture leadership, build capacity, increase credibility, and broaden participation in the field. The current initiative, EECapacity(link is external), is building the capacity of environmental educators to strengthe, grow, and diversity the field of environmental education, leading and advance environmental literacy and civic engagement. To date, this partnership has engaged more than a million people and1,000 partner organizations, and has leveraged $2 million in funds to enhance impact.
As part of this effort, NAAEE has launched eePRO (see below) to enhance professional development and create an online learning and networking hub for EE, brought together practitioners from such diverse organizations including NAAEE’s affiliates, community-based groups, churches, zoos, nature centers, schools, government agencies, and parks that are committed to learning from each other, supported certification and accreditation efforts at the individual, state, and university level to advance environmental education, and helps pilot a community climate change initiative to show how environmental education can advance our work in climate change in communities across North America.
Advocating for Environmental Education
NAAEE advocates for policies and programs that advance environmental education at the state and federal levels. Along with our affiliates, members, and partner organizations, we have been a leader in securing support for the historic No Child Left Inside Act and holding the line on federal environmental education appropriations. Recognizing the tremendous potential of the Affiliate Network to deepen our impact, NAAEE works with state environmental education associations to build their capacities for advocacy and provide technical support for the development of environmental literacy plans.
Natural Start Alliance
Since 2013, the Natural Start Alliance(link is external) has worked with more than 100 member organizations across the United States and internationally to promote environmental education and nature-based play and learning. Natural Start publishes the International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, hosts the Nature-Based Preschool National Conference, and convenes the Council for Nature-Based Early Childhood Education. With more than 150 member organizations across the United States and internationally, Natural Start advocates at the state and national levels for nature-based play and learning for young children.
NAAEE led a research effort to examine how environmental education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education intersect and can be mutually supportive.
This research was supported through our partnership with UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a collaboration that also enabled NAAEE to provide $250,000 in funding through the UL Innovative Education Award to support innovative E-STEM programs that demonstrate a track record of success. These programs are collectively impacting over a million students annually, and only look to grow with our support
Additionally, NAAEE in collaboration with the California Water Service has launched an in-school competition promoting conservation and E-STEM, which has already impacted twenty school districts in California and over 1,700 participating students in its inaugural year.
In 2015 NAAEE launched eePRO(link is external), a ground breaking online portal for environmental education professionals to network, share resources and opportunities, and learn about the latest trends in EE. This innovative web portal is visited by thousands of educators each day.
Grounding EE in Research
NAAEE launched a new initiative called Anecdotes to Evidence in 2014. The goal is to help showcase the value and impact of environmental education by doing a comprehensive analysis of the existing research and developing communication materials that professionals can use to support their work. NAAEE is partnering with Stanford University, as well as a number of other universities and organizations to showcase the evidence of the impact of EE on a variety of factors, from student academic performance to conservation outcomes.
The way we think… The way we act… The way we are.
NAAEE is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity in all aspects of our work. We believe that a wide array of perspectives allows all organizations to be more effective, and we honor the beliefs, attitudes, languages, interpersonal styles, and values of all individuals. Our goal is to create an environment that is inclusive, respectful, and equitable, and to employ the talents of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to accomplish the mission of NAAEE.
Diversity and NAAEE
NAAEE is dedicated to achieving greater diversity and inclusion within our own organization and providing equal opportunity to people of all races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, incomes, marital statuses, ages, geographic locations, philosophies, and veteran statuses in all levels of staff and governance. We are also committed to promoting principles that help build a more diverse and inclusive environmental movement and focus on promoting ecological integrity, economic prosperity, and social equity.
We recognize that cultural diversity exists in multiple dimensions, and includes differences among people that are not immediately visible. While we cannot heal all divisions and inequities in society, our work can help create unique opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and exchanges. The more diverse the audiences we work with, the stronger our movement will be. We are also committed to the lifelong learning that is required for effective diversity and inclusion work.
- Read the NAAEE Diversity and Inclusion Principles.
- NAAEE hosts the eePRO Diversity and Inclusion Group(link is external) that serves as a forum for ongoing discussions about the challenges, successes, and lessons learned in our efforts to reach and work with people and organizations representing diversity perspectives, backgrounds, and expertise. We encourage all interested participants to join the group and help us become more effective, relevant, and collaborative in our work with others.
- EECapacity is all about growing, strengthening, and diversifying the field of environmental education. Embracing diversity is a core component of the program. Visit the EECapacity website(link is external)!
- NAAEE has worked with the National Audubon Society to produce the next module in the Tools of Engagement series, which will focus on diversity and the conservation movement.
What is environmental education?
Environmental education (EE) is a process that helps individuals, communities, and organizations learn more about the environment, and develop skills and understanding about how to address global challenges. It has the power to transform lives and society. It informs and inspires. It influences attitudes. It motivates action. EE is a key tool in expanding the constituency for the environmental movement and creating healthier and more civically-engaged communities.
Why do we need environmental education?
The environment sustains all life on earth. It provides us with nourishment and inspiration. Our economy thrives on a healthy environment. A growing body of research tells us that time spent in nature provides physical and psychological benefits. Our personal and cultural identities are often tied to the environment around us. At the same time, it’s impossible not to be deeply concerned about the unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges we face as a global society—from climate change and loss of species and habitats, to declines in civic engagement, decreasing access to nature, a growing gap between the haves and have nots, and other threats to our health, security, and future survival. Environmental education (EE) is a process that helps individuals, communities, and organizations learn more about the environment, develop skills to investigate their environment and to make intelligent, informed decisions about how they can help take care of it.
Key Underpinnings of the Field
EE is built on the principles of sustainability, focusing on how people and nature can exist in productive harmony. As the Brundtland Report stated (Our Common Future, 1987), “to create a more sustainable society, we need to determine how to meet the needs of the present without compromising our ability to meet the needs of the future.” The work in this field focuses on building ecological integrity, and environmental health, and creating a fair and just society with shared prosperity.
The field of EE is characterized by key underpinnings, including a focus on learners of all ages—from early childhood to seniors. It focuses on the importance of experiential, interdisciplinary education, and helping all learners develop problem solving and decision-making skills, understand how to be a civically engaged citizen, and how to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable society. EE also advances key societal issues—from the Next Generation Science Standards to STEM to climate change education.
- Focus on systems thinking
- Lifelong learning: cradle to grave
- Focus on sound science
- Built on a sustainability platform
- Sense of place
- Reflects best practice in education (learner-centered, experiential, and project-based learning)
- Informed decision making
A Rose By Any Other Name
Environmental education is a broad umbrella that is focused on creating a more sustainable future using the power of education. In addition to being a process for learning, it is a profession that is focused on using best practice in education to help create societal change to address the social and environmental issues facing society. Environmental educators work in all segments of society. They work with students, teachers, administrators, and school boards to green schools—focusing on curriculum, professional development, schoolyards, and school buildings, and more. They work with businesses to educate managers, employees, and vendors about environmental, health, and economic issues. They are facilitators of citizen science programs to help people understand the scientific process and use the data to help protect species, habitat, communities, and ecological processes. They are professors in universities who train the next generation of teachers, environmental professionals, business leaders, and others. They work with journalists to tell the story about the value of environmental education and with decision makers to advocate for environmental education. They work hand-in-hand with conservation professionals to help engage people and communities in finding solutions to conservation issues—from loss of biodiversity to climate change. And they work with health professionals who educate doctors, nurses, and other health professionals about the critical link between health and environment and how to increase time in nature to address health issues. They are naturalists helping to connect more people to nature and build stewardship values that last a lifetime.