Earth’s evolution reveals that nature has 13 billion years of trial and error, experimentation and evaluation, risk and success in creating the world. As nature learns from diverse approaches, so too, does the K-12 education system need to learn from environmental models and practices. David Orr, in Earth In Mind, On Human Prospect and Education, writes that all education is environmental education. Janine Benyus, in Biomimicry, asks for a “Biomimic revolution” to learn from nature. Biomimetic research discovers what works in the natural world and perhaps even more importantly, what lasts. The biophilia hypothesis, introduced by Edward O. Wilson in his book, Biophilia, (1984) reveals that people possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and natural forms of life. Connecting young people to the out of doors through repeated and impressionable experiences is essential during childhood. Connecting children to careers that spend most of their day outside is also key to enabling future professions working on climate response, weather prediction, natural disaster avoidance, land management, recreation, rivers, oceans, clean air, biodiversity, and many others.
The North American Association of Environmental Education established Environmental Education Learning Standards (2007) connecting 21st century critical thinking skills with awareness and understanding of interactions between people and nature. Delivered through place based design activities these standards address awareness, knowledge, attitudes and environmental ethic, citizen action skills, and citizen action experiences and connect development of the individual with understandings about human ecology and the ecology of living systems.
Architects and designers work in careers that connect nature and people in place making. These 4 processes brought into K12 teaching and learning connect teachers and students to their schools and school communities in new ways.
Strand 1: Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills
Strand 2: Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems
Strand 3: Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues including the earth, living systems, humans and their societies and interactions between humans and the environment.
Strand 4: Personal and Civic Responsibility.
Cities need to be places to play for every child and every adult. Unstructured play in natural settings is critical for nurturing young imaginations. When children are bussed or driven to school, they move from one design environment (their home) through another designed environment (the bus or the car), to a third designed environment (the school). Most school grounds offer a school building, a parking lot, sports fields, an asphalt play area, and green manicured lawns. Play that takes place on asphalt is denatured. The nature of play informs our understanding of why nature play is so essential in early childhood. Nature Play Spaces draw from art, architecture, child development, engineering, and ecological and design research.