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An experimental examination of the effectiveness of environmental education with preschool children
Empirical evidence on the benefits of nature and the effectiveness of environmental education are increasing, but little evidence examining the effectiveness of environmental education programs with preschool children exists. The current exploratory study examined the effectiveness of a pilot environmental education program, Heroes of the Environment in Training, for increasing environmental knowledge and increasing positive environmental perceptions in preschool children. A total of 107 children at six preschools in rural Northern California participated in the project. Children were individually interviewed before and after the program to assess changes in their environmental knowledge and perceptions. Three preschool classrooms were randomly assigned to receive the program and three were exposed to story time not related to environmental education. Results revealed that the environmental education program was effective in increasing environmental knowledge for boys in the experimental group and for older children regardless of group. While results revealed that the environmental education program did not increase environmental perceptions, preschool children had relatively positive environmental perceptions at time one, which were maintained over time. Girls in general had more positive environmental perceptions at both time one and time two. Past research has shown that extant positive perceptions in young children decline in elementary school. Thus, perhaps program such as the current one can help prevent such decline. These results from the current study can inform educators about how to integrate developmentally and culturally appropriate environmental education at the preschool level and encourages future research on early childhood environmental education and developing better, more psychometrically sound measures.