Developing partnerships between informal environmental education programs and school communities can be an essential function for both organizations, particularly in urban environments. These types of partnerships provide beneficial advantages to both organizations. Environmental Education organizations striving to meet their mission and increase ecological awareness and community involvement in environmental causes can find ready and willing participants in schools, who have far reaching influence in the community (Sobel 2009). Schools seeking to raise test scores and meet science standards, can find expertise and funding from environmental education organizations (Sobel 2009). Research has shown academic performance and environmental behavior improves when environmental interventions occur in the classroom guided by environmental professionals, as opposed to environmental interventions in a non-formal setting (Sobel 2009, Krasny and Tidball 2009). Additionally, by establishing these partnerships in urban areas, both organizations tap into a myriad of community resources and diversity of partners amongst teachers, administrators, parents, students, community organizations, and environmental organizations that can help shape the project to meet the social and environmental needs of the community (Sobel 2009).
Guidelines for establishing partnerships
Establishing appropriate guidelines for how to establish, develop, and maintain such partnerships is crucial to a program’s success. For example, TreePeople in Los Angeles has found that a model that requires involvement at all levels of the school including administrators, teachers, parents and maintenance workers is the most effective way of creating buy-in for environmental projects. Sobel (2009) echoes these sentiments, citing strong administrator, teacher, parent and community involvement as crucial components to creating an effective partnership between schools and non-formal environmental education programs. In addition, it is crucial for the longevity of the program that environmental education organization provide the tools for long term success to the schools. This may include training teachers during in-service workshops or summer institutes, in addition to developing grant writing skills among teachers and administrators to ensure funding for the program continues (Sobel 2009). Continually expanding the number of teachers knowledgeable about the program, and empowering the school to find their own funding may be the most essential ways to ensure the longevity of these projects.
Potential pitfalls of partnerships
School and environmental education organization partnerships can be effective ways for both organizations to meet academic goals and environmental missions. However, when not structured appropriately they can fail to serve urban communities effectively. For instance, when the cultural and social values of the community involved are not taken into account, these programs can fail to alter environmental behavior or increase academic scores (Get citation- lost paper I read this in!). Additionally, these partnerships do not provide appropriate academic and social engagement when the main focus is placed on only restoring the environment and expecting children and other participants to learn just through exposure (Krasny and Tidball 2009). Instead, environmental educators must be prepared to provide the appropriate mentoring and scaffolding to participants to help them learn about the environment (Krasny and Tidball 2009). Finally, there are the challenges of communication that arise from working in an urban area with multiple community and school partners (Krasny and Tidball 2009). Everyone involved must be prepared to navigate these communication channels appropriately, and ensure that all of the parties involved continue to clearly understand the parameters of the…