Facing The Fear Of Climate Crisis: Environmental Educationâ s Contribution To Positive Youth Development And Emotional Resiliency
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We are experiencing the threat of climate crisis, and for many this is causing emotional distress and a sense of powerlessness. For humans to be able to adapt and respond effectively we must build our capacity for critical action. This raises the question about the role of environmental education in supporting the development of confident, engaged young people who are emotionally resilient in the face of climate crisis. Thus, this project sought to answer the question “Are environmental education programs contributing to the positive development of young people?” Semi-structured interviews with environmental educators revealed that positive youth development assets, representing the interpersonal strengths, experiences, relationships, skills or values of young people, are being met through environmental education programs. A focused effort to include as many assets as possible in program design and goals would better help young people develop into resilient, engaged citizens. To assist educators in evaluating the number and level of assets an environmental program is contributing to, I developed two pilot assessments: Program Self-Evaluation and Short-Term Participant Assessment. In response to the increasing emotional distress experienced as a result of the climate crisis threat, the second part of the project looked at the role of environmental education in relation to emotional resiliency. A survey with participants of a conservation program explored the emotional experiences preand post-program, with results demonstrating that these individuals are experiencing both positive and negative emotions in relation to their understandings of climate change and the ecological crisis. Responses also indicate participants are in possession of some level of emotional resilience, and divulged supports required to bolster or maintain this resilience. Based on these insights, and current literature, a list was generated highlighting methods and approaches that could enhance the ability of the environmental education field to address emotional distress. This paper reasons that environmental education is uniquely positioned to play a key role in the positive development of young, engaged citizens who are emotionally resilient in the face of our climate crisis.