The study reported in this paper emerged from a concern that despite 20 years of theorizing about the practice of environmental education in Australian schools it continues to be marginalized in the school curriculum. The educational problem we set out to address was how to improve teaching and learning in relation to environmental issues in schools and the broader community in Australia. In this paper we position our study in relation to Rickinson's report on research focused on learners and learning in environmental education. We also draw on Hart and Nolan's 1999 paper on trends in environmental education research. We argue that while the aims of environmental education are well documented, and there is agreement that environmental education in schools is an important strategy in achieving environmental improvement, little is known about the environmental understandings held by children. Our study sought to provide data on the environmental understandings of young people. In order to achieve this aim we linked with government and community groups who also had an interest in the outcomes of the study. We report on the outcomes of the study and specifically in relation to the working partnership we had with 'partner groups'.