Graduate student recognized as environmental education game-changer

Angela Rogers
November 06, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Geography graduate student Elham Nasr Azadani has been selected by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) as one of their "EE 30 Under 30" for 2017.

According to the NAAEE, the program started in 2016, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and this year, added support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Global Environmental Education Partnership. The EE 30 Under 30 program recognizes individuals in the U.S. and internationally, 30 years of age or younger, who are game changers in their communities.

“I believe that each person is given a diverse responsibility for a special work; she can do it best and no one can do it as well as she can. The duty of individuals is to discover their abilities and their positions according to their talent and capacity,” Nasr Azadani said. “I know that part of my responsibility is to protect the environment through teaching, and I will continue to do my best to achieve my goals.”

Prior to coming to Penn State to pursue a doctorate in geography, Nasr Azadani earned her master’s degree in environmental engineering at Yazd University in Iran and founded the Chaarbagh children’s nature school in her hometown of Isfahan in Iran.  She is also a playwright and a performer, using the stage to teach environmental facts to children, families and others.

“At first, people did not know what to think of a young woman traveling around the city at night to teach about the environment by using music and performance,” Nasr Azadani said,  “but eventually, they came around and I came to be known as ‘Aunt Nature.’”

“The usual practice in a nature school is to allow children, typically ages 3 to 12, to act and play in nature freely, as long as their activities are safe. As facilitators, our duty is to observe them and not interrupt activities which are defined and preferred by them,” Nasr Azadani said. “Connecting with nature causes children to become more powerful, mentally and physically, and eventually, will foster a sense of responsibility toward nature in them.”

Nasr Azadani’s vision of creating a nature school for children began in her own childhood.

“From my childhood, two scenes have stood out in my mind: the process of germination of a small seed and its growth into a beneficial beautiful plant, and also the adversity of diminishing nature by humans. The former invigorated me; the latter enervated me. When I grew up, I asked myself ‘Why do humans always destroy, while Mother Nature is such a great generator? Isn’t it true that human beings are a part of nature?’ So, I started teaching environmental issues to children as future decision makers of our world.”

  • A boy discovers wind chimes

    At the Chaarbagh nature school, A boy discovers wind chimes.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated November 06, 2017