This paper describes a study of sixth grade children's conceptions of nature and the environment. In so doing, it asks that environmental educators pay more attention to children's preconceived notions of environment and nature. Should this occur the theory-practice gap in environmental education may be diminished. Learners' concepts of ‘nature’ and the ‘environment’ provide a needed perspective for the development of individually and contextually appropriate teaching and learning strategies in environmental education. Without knowledge of them it is not clear whose version of environment it is which the learner is being educated ‘in’, ‘about’, ‘with’ or ‘for’.