Today’s blog is by Rachel Cook a PhD student at King’s College, London who volunteers with the Lambeth Natural Thinkers project and with LEEF, the London Environmental Educators’ Forum.

It is an interesting paradox that no one speaks more loudly than young people when they have been persistently silenced.  Thanks to young peoples’ direct action to demand greater environmental action from the generation that will hand over the baton to them, an important debate has been re-invigorated about what is the purpose of education and how effective is it for equipping young people for the future.

Of course young people are not alone in being concerned about what they are being taught about the environment in schools.  Recent research by King’s College London has highlighted teachers’ own views that the curriculum is not doing enough to teach environmental education (Glackin et al., 2018). While reforming the national curriculum was a key aim for striking, young people were also highlighting that what they are seeing in their lives is not marrying with the rhetoric they hear.  Education and learning are often referred to as ‘life-long, life-wide and life-deep’, which captures well how people learn, not just from school, but from the spaces and places just beyond our front door as well as from the social contexts behind it (Banks et al., 2007).  These issues will be central to the forthcoming first ever UK ‘urban’ environmental education conference, which will take place at the Natural History Museum on October 7th 2019.

Urban environmental education is not just with and for young people, but for their families and communities too.  The innovation for urban environmental education in London is world-class, promoting ecological sustainability and supporting individuals and communities to flourish through such activities at urban education centres, forest schools, urban farms, social art for sustainability, nature-based wellbeing, community-based growing and sustainability projects, research and training; and the list goes on and on.

The conference will be a celebration of the innovative approaches to bring environmental learning to diverse audiences in urban contexts, fostering sustainability and inclusion to celebrate the 30th birthday of London Environmental Educators’ Forum (LEEF).   Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to contribute to a conversation about what best practice is in urban environmental education.

As part of these celebrations, NAEE is going to be hosting a special edition of its Environmental Education journal, which will both showcase what has been achieved in the urban environmental education movement and look ahead to the next 30 years.  Journal articles will reflect the diverse audiences of urban environmental education as well as the practice and provision of urban environmental education, exploring one or more of the following:

  • Best practice in urban environmental education in the UK;
  • Innovation and future-looking approaches that speak to the next 30 years of urban environmental education practice;
  • Ways in which urban environmental education can support, engage or positively impact young people and the environment or communities and contribute to addressing inequalities.

If you would like to submit an article to the special edition, please submit an abstract (circa 200 words) by 22nd May 2019.  This should indicate the author of the paper and which of the above themes it is addressing.   Contributors will be notified of the outcome before: 7thJune 2019.  The deadline for full articles is 1stAugust 2019 (~800 words).

You can register your interest here.  All queries about the special issue and submissions should be sent to:



Glackin, M., King, H., Cook, R. and Greer, K. (2018). Understanding environmental education in secondary schools in England. School of Education, Communication and Society, King’s College London.

Banks, J. A., Au, K. H., Ball, A. F., Bell, P., Gordon, E. W., Gutierrez, K. D. …, Zhou, M., (2007). Learning in and out of school in diverse environments: Life-long, life-wide, life-deep. Seattle, WA: The LIFE Center and The Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington.




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