Date of Award



Edward Van Buren


This paper argues on behalf of environmental education reform in order to improve America’s ailing environmental politics. It does so by emphasizing the overlap between environmental education, the history of education and American conservation, and environmental politics. It first discusses the core differences in varying styles of education in order to provide a context for the terminology and theories used to discuss education reform. More specifically, I compare and contrast the differences in the thought processes each style of education encourages. Divergent thinking, which results from what is known as informal education, is necessary in order to be an ecologically aware and sustainable individual. To support my argument I conduct a case study on the American Museum of Natural History; the Museum’s informal education initiatives successfully increased environmental awareness in the early 1900’s. Having defined the necessity for informal environmental education, I provide a brief history of environmental education in America leading up until today. I then argue that informal environmental education must be reformed in order to limit the risk of formal education undermining the lessons taught. In order to do so, the informal pedagogy used must incorporate experiential learning to reinforce the lessons conveyed. If done correctly, informal environmental education will provide students with a sense of eco-literacy. My concluding argument discusses the potential for eco-literacy to reshape environmental politics. Eco-literacy, in conjunction with environmental citizenship, has the ability to adjust the priorities of voters towards environmental protection and sustainability. My concluding argument emphasizes this relationship between the public and politicians, and asserts that educators can capitalize on it in order to direct political agenda.