Environmental Adult Education is recognized as a “hybrid outgrowth of the environmental movement and adult education, combining an ecological orientation with a learning paradigm to provide a vigorous educational approach to environmental concerns” (Sumner, 2003).
In laymen’s terms, environmental adult education refers to efforts in teaching environmental issues and how individuals and businesses can manage or change their lifestyles and ecosystems to live sustainably. The overarching goal of this field of study is to educate our global societies to live more sustainably.
From the classroom to the forests, fields, streams and prairies, environmental adult education takes place in both formal and nonformal learning environments and programs.
Environmental adult education is a relatively new and unique field of study and practice. It is a community-based method in which educators listen and respect the input of learners, and all participants are considered essential (Haugen, 2006).
During the last thirty years, environmental adult education has evolved. For more than a century, environmental and conservation organizations taught adults environmental education with very little structure.
The United States was one of the first countries to officially recognize environmental education. During a joint House-Senate session in 1968, Congress acknowledged the importance of environmental education, and in 1970 passed the Environmental Education Act, which established the Office of Environmental Education (American Geological Institute 2000).
Timeline of the Ideology of Environmental Adult Education (EAE):
* Mid-1970s: EAE recognized as distinct field of study
* Late 1980s: EAE focus on learner experience
* Late 1990s, Early 2000: Focus shifted to how to teach EAE
* 1997: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) hosted conference on adult education with EAE being one of the 33 workshops presented