Last week was National Environmental Education Week, a nationwide celebration of environmental learning and sustainability hosted by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).
As we reflect upon the past week of events and all of the stories shared about student engagement with the environment, CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment would like to take this time to thank and acknowledge the many K-12 educators across California who are providing students with high-quality learning experiences that help build environmental literacy. We could not do it without you!
Fostering environmental literacy among California K-12 students is at the core of our office’s mission and vision. In order to ensure a bright tomorrow for California and our planet, our future generation must be able to examine, think critically and make informed decisions about real word environmental issues affecting their communities.
One of the ways educators can help students build these skills is to apply California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts (Environmental Principles) to their standards-based instruction.
The Environmental Principles consist of five “big ideas” and fifteen supporting concepts that examine the interactions and interdependence of human societies and natural systems. Students do not need to memorize the environmental principles; rather teachers can use the environmental principles as a way to amplify and help students recognize the complexity of human impacts on the environment.
For example, a science lesson focused on the investigation of food webs and the exchange of matter moving through plants and animals within an ecosystem presents an opportunity for teachers to pose the question “What would happen if the cycle of matter flowing through ecosystems is interrupted by human activities.” In this way, students can begin to understand Environmental Principle 4 – human activities can affect “the exchange of matter between natural systems and human societies affects the long term-functioning of both.”
EE Week is a reminder of the importance and centrality of the environment in our lives, but anytime is a good time to blend the Environmental Principles into student learning. In fact, the California State Board of Education encourages teachers to incorporate the Environmental Principals into their instruction as a way to fuel student inquiry and provide deeper learning experiences. Both the new science and history-social science framework include the Environmental Principles, which means that all new state textbook adoptions will address the Environmental Principles.
Teachers can get a head start today by browsing through the new science framework and revised history-social science framework for more information about the Environmental Principles. Appendix 2 of the science framework provides examples of how educators can make connections between the Environmental Principles and the three dimensions of California’s Next Generation Science Standards. Appendix G of the History-Social Science Framework provides similar examples.