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Envi Curriculum

Envi Curriculum

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Published by: Roosevelt Campus Network on Apr 15, 2010
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08/28/2013

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Integrating Environmental Education

Into Middle School Curricula
Alixandra Hallen
Northwestern University
By integrating environmental education into middle school curriculum we will be able to teach students about their environment, while also increasing their science and math literacy. This in turn will make students more able to face the environmental challenges of today and the future, and be a critical part of finding the solution. Background In the United States, especially in the Midwest, we need to start taking an interest in environmental education. Starting in middle school, students should be taught about their world, including the problems our environment is facing today. The most effective way to do this is to integrate environmental learning into the already existing curriculum. We should no longer accept that environmental education is not available to children across the country. We are facing the growing threat of global warming and students today often do not even know what that is. We should be preparing students to meet the challenges of tomorrow and our current middle school curriculum is not yet up to that task. Students should be able to not only understand the current climate problems we are facing, but should be given the tools necessary to one day be able to work towards a solution. What constitutes environmental education is a hotly debated topic, however, there have been some general consensus as to what should be included in the environmental education category. There is agreement that environmental education should “foster knowledge about the environment and the skills to act on that knowledge.”1 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came out with their second report to Congress on the state of environmental education in 2005. They found that while environmental education in the United States had improved since their previous report in 1996, there was still much room for growth.2 Continuing to press for more environmental education will be essential for helping current and future students learn about the world around them. Key Facts • 40% of Americans cannot name a fossil fuel.6 • 51% of Americans cannot name a renewable energy source.7 • 56% of Americans believe that Nuclear power contributes to global warming.8 Talking Points • The National Environmental Education and Training foundation that examined schools that integrated environmental education into their curriculum. They found that students improved their reading and math scores, and performed better in science and social studies.9 • Students must be well versed in environmental education because they will be one day faced with the problems associated with our environment. Without proper environmental understanding, students will not be equipped to solve these problems. Analysis Middle school, which includes grades 6 through 8, should be where we begin to integrate environmental education into the curriculum. These students all over the Midwest often times are not exposed to environmental education. Without exposing them, it is hard to expect these students to grow up and be not only knowledgeable about the environment, but willing and able to work towards solving environmental crises. In the Midwest, we face a myriad of environmental challenges and concerns. We need to begin educating our young people about the specific challenges in the Midwest and start them on the path to thinking about how to solve these problems.

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Once environmental education is deemed a priority, the next is to integrate it into the curriculum, using a model of interdisciplinary learning. Interdisciplinary learning “emphasizes connections between traditionally discrete disciplines … rather than limiting learning to one content area at a time.”3 An environmental curriculum would be woven into the already established curriculum using projects, text books and field trips to connect students with their environment. For example the curriculum could incorporate readings during English class that will teach students about environmental concerns or math class will involve problems where students can calculate the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from various sources. “Research has demonstrated that interdisciplinary teaching can increase students’ motivation for learning as well as their level of active engagement.” The State Education and Environmental Roundtable did a study in 16 states and found that interdisciplinary learning using environmental education is an effective teaching method. The study showed that “environmental-based learning is interdisciplinary, collaborative, student centered, and hands-on. Not only did the students’ performance improve on traditional measures of competence… but their interest and motivation were also enhanced.”4 Environmental education is essential. When students graduate, they will need to be able to not only understand the world around them, but to be able to solve the problems our environment faces. Stakeholders School curriculum is decided on many levels, by many different people. Ideally, there would be a national initiative to work towards integrating environmental education into middle school education across the country. The National Environmental Education Act passed in 1990 could be used to create a standardized, national environmental education framework. This act would need to be updated to reflect the new state of environmental education and the new, changing world we are living in.5 Updating the National Environmental Education Act would give greater authorization to the Office of Environmental Education to administer materials and provide advice for educators across the country. Next Steps If the National Environmental Education Act is updated by Congress, the Office of Environmental Education can work towards creating a standardized middle school environmental education curriculum. A standardized national environmental curriculum can be used in conjunction with regional specific curriculum to give students the full range of information. School boards, parents associations, and teachers across the Midwest can then come together to supplement this national material, with curriculum that is specific to the Midwest region. Students can take a trip to the surrounding environment and take a survey of the environment and then discuss current issues facing that area. Curriculum created Illinois, can for example focus on the Great Lakes. Endnotes
1. Morrone, Michael «Primary and Secondary School Environmental Health Science Education and the Education Crisis: A Survey of Science Teachers in Ohio», Journal of Envrionemtal Health, Vol. 63, 2001 2. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Successes: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005 3. Center for Ecoliteracy, “Interdisciplinary Learning,” http://www.ecoliteracy.org/strategies/interdisciplinary-learning 4. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Successes: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005 5. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Successes: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005 6. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www. project2061.org/publications/2061Connections/2009/2009-05a.htm 7. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www. project2061.org/publications/2061Connections/2009/2009-05a.htm 8. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www. project2061.org/publications/2061Connections/2009/2009-05a.htm 9. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Successes: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005

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