Environmental Literacy Gets Boost from Newly Approved Science Framework

You might have heard that California became the first state in the country to adopt a new science framework based on the Next Generation Science Standards, but did you know that this framework also includes an explicit focus on the teaching of environmental literacy?

For the first time in state history, the framework incorporates five key environmental principles and concepts (EP&Cs) designed to help students understand the complex relationship between humans and the natural world.

The EP&Cs will sound familiar to readers of this blog since they are the building blocks for the environmental content taught in the EEI Curriculum. They state that humans depend on, benefit from, and influence the earth’s natural systems. As students master these concepts and learn to apply them in real world situations, their environmental literacy grows.

Teachers will find the framework a helpful resource because it provides examples of how the environment can be used as an authentic, relevant, and engaging context for teaching the NGSS. Within the framework, teachers will find a number of  vignettes – stories that illustrate what three-dimensional environment-based lessons look like.

For example, middle school students may be presented with the engineering challenge of figuring out how to divert rainwater away from road surfaces, where it can pick up oil, grit, and other pollutants, and, instead, redirect it into the ground to minimize flooding and maximize filtration. Seventh grade students may be tasked with graphing fish populations under various global warming scenarios. High school chemistry students can explore the increasing acidification of the world’s oceans, the causes, and potential remedies.

Appendix 2 of the framework, entitled K-12 Connections to Environmental Principles and Concepts, is another useful resource for understanding how specific NGSS standards can be supported by the EP&Cs.

State officials and education experts agree that using the environment as a context for learning is a great way to get more kids excited about science. And now more than ever it is important that our students not just “know” about the environment – they also need to be critical consumers of information and problem solvers. In this way our future citizenry will be prepared to tackle and offer solutions to the complex environmental challenges that effect our everyday lives.

In addition to offering teachers guidance on how to incorporate environmental literacy into their classroom instruction, the framework will guide textbook publishers in the creation of new science materials. This means that state-adopted textbooks arriving in 2018-19 will feature lessons that help students see the real world connections between science, the environment, and their daily lives . This is exciting news for everyone involved in the effort to bring standards-based environmental education to California K-12 classrooms.

The final draft of the 2015-2016 Science Framework approved by the California State Board of Education can be viewed here.

What steps are you taking to bring environmental literacy to your students? Let us know in the comment section below!

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