Content

Stewardship definitions

Educating people in environmental stewardship practices

Whether you are a classroom teacher or an environmental educator, it is helpful to have common terminology around a concept like stewardship. This page provides a framework and examples about different types of stewardship actions you can use in your education programming. 

Erosion, sedimentation, and eutrophication from changing weather patterns are significant issues in Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Alabama. Week Bay Foundation Manager and NOAA Planet Steward, Yael Girard, implemented a program, with Planet Stewards Funding, to assess and restore areas of the waterway and to remove trash to combat these issues.
 
Erosion, sedimentation, and eutrophication from changing weather patterns are significant issues in Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Alabama. Week Bay Foundation Manager and NOAA Planet Steward, Yael Girard, implemented a program, with Planet Stewards Funding, to assess and restore areas of the waterway and to remove trash to combat these issues. (Yael Girard, NOAA Planet Steward)

This collection is organized into two sections:

  • Definitions
  • Types of Stewardship

Definitions

Environmental stewardship: The responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices to enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being (Chapin et al, 2011offsite link).

  • Environmental education that includes stewardship provides opportunities for participants to connect with local ecosystems and tools that can help them understand how individual behavior impacts the environment. These activities encourage people to take an active role in managing and protecting these resources (NOAA Education Council, 2015).
  • Students participate in an age-appropriate project during which they take action to address environmental issues at the personal or societal level (NOAA Bay-Watershed Education and Training Program). 

Stewardship action: The activities, behaviors, decisions, and technologies carried out by stewards--individuals, groups, or networks of actors (Bennett, et al., 2018offsite link). Those executed collectively by groups or communities are used to manage common-trust resources. Which actors are involved largely depends on the scale and complexity of the issue.

Stewardship measure: Quantifiable benefits to the environment that are a result of a stewardship action or project (Hajkowicz & Collins, 2009offsite link).

Types of Stewardship

Our framework for integrating stewardship actions into education programs has five categories:

Restoration and Protection: Actions that assist in the recovery or preservation of an ecosystem that have been degraded, damaged or destroyed and allow that ecosystem to evolve with minimal human influence (Missouri Botanical Gardenoffsite link). The following examples are actions that lead to improved biodiversity or ecosystem health.

  • Clean up litter at local beaches, parks, or school grounds

  • Assist local estuaries, parks, or other natural areas with planting or restoring protective vegetation or trees

  • Restore a local habitat

  • Remove invasive plants

  • Develop a school garden, natural history area, community garden, or other sustainable green space and measure the change it makes

  • Install rain gardens to help manage stormwater

Everyday Choices: Actions that reduce resource inputs and emissions per unit of output through technological change and consumer purchasing, use and disposal behaviors (IPCC, 2007offsite link). The following examples are actions that lead to reduced carbon footprint or use of natural resources.

  • Start or expand a recycling program at home or school and measure the effect of the change

  • Monitor and save water in the face of potential drought or reduction in available water

  • Upcycle discarded materials

  • Compost food or yard waste

  • Reduce waste in a cafeteria and measure the impacts to the school or local community

  • Research and implement energy efficient strategies or energy alternatives at school and/or at home

  • Offer personal ways for students to live more sustainably.

Community Awareness: Actions that inform others in an effort to convince them to take action to address community-level environmental issues (Hollweg, et al., 2011offsite link). The following examples are actions that lead to increased awareness by community members. 

  • Giving presentations to local organizations

  • Sharing information on social media

  • Organizing community events

  • Recording and broadcasting public service announcements

  • Posting flyers in the community

  • Posters at community events, fairs, festivals

  • Conservation awareness activities help individuals believe that the environment is valuable and under threat and should be protected from human impacts.

Civic Action: Actions that inform public or organizational policy decisions that can improve environmental outcomes for many people or organizations at once (Stern, 2000offsite link). Students behave as citizens by engaging in a cycle of research, action, and reflection about problems they care about personally while helping them master knowledge, skills, beliefs, and habits of civic action that they can apply in the future as well (Levinson, 2014). The following examples are actions that lead to an environmental policy or rule for an organization or community. 

  • Speaking or presenting at town meetings

  • Voting for legislation or candidates

  • Writing to elected officials or decision makers

  • Meeting with elected officials

Stewardship Science: Actions that collect and report monitoring data in an ecosystem that inform management of the natural resource. The following examples are actions that contribute data to environmental monitoring efforts.

  • Extend student learning beyond the classroom with a citizen science monitoring project that impacts the species or environmental concern students are studying