[Article] Trauma-Informed Environmental Education
The Journal of Environmental Education has published “Trauma-Informed Environmental Education: Helping Students Feel Safe and Connected in Nature” by Dr. Nicole M Evans from University of California-Santa Barbara. This article provides an overview of trauma and how it manifests in students, describes why environmental education is in need of unique principles specific to the field, and provides a framework for becoming trauma-informed in environmental education. Many students who come to us in environmental education programs have experienced trauma, yet the field has not caught up with its own guidelines or standards for environmental educators.
Trauma-informed can be understood as having a basic understanding of trauma and how it operates and applies to the context of one’s work. It is a commitment to recognizing trauma, responding to it skillfully, and making sure people aren’t retraumatizing themselves under our guidance. Most work on trauma in environmental education is focused on climate- and eco-trauma caused by the distressing messages sometimes given to children as they learn about environmental problems. However, trauma-informed environmental education encompasses a whole other range of considerations outside of this related to students who experience trauma in their personal lives, and this paper makes a first step towards identifying some of those considerations.
This article also argues that becoming trauma-informed is an important step for environmental education to become more inclusive; While trauma is pervasive, it disproportionately affects BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color), women, LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), and low-income populations.
Environmental education engages head and heart, but studies show that trauma affects how students learn (head) and connect (heart). Trauma-informed environmental education reaches students where they are and helps them connect with nature.