EEI In Action: Using Environment-Based Learning to Support English Language Arts

Lindy Martin
Lindy Martin

The 2017/2018 school year marked two big changes for teacher Lindy Martin: her transition from elementary school to middle school and her first time using the EEI Curriculum!
After eighteen years of teaching elementary school, Martin began teaching middle school English Language Arts. The EEI Curriculum was a great fit for her seventh graders at Buena Vista/Horace Mann, a K-8 bilingual school in San Francisco. Martin teaches reading, writing, and social studies in English, and the same subjects are taught in Spanish by her colleague.
“The California non fiction seventh grade Language Arts standards and Teachers College Readers & Writers Workshop mini lessons integrated well with the EEI Curriculum,” said Martin.

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Every EEI Curriculum unit comes with a Student Edition that includes a California Connections story, a non-fiction reader that offers California-specific, real-world examples of unit concepts. These engaging stories help students connect lessons to something relevant in their lives. The Student Edition also includes case study readings and other valuable informational texts, which makes the EEI Curriculum a great resource for supporting Common Core standards in English Language Arts.

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Over the course of the school year, Martin taught three middle school EEI History-Social Science units: Arab Trade Networks, Genius Across the Centuries, and Managing Nature’s Bounty: Feudalism in Medieval Europe. Each of these units covers the history of a different region: trade routes on the Arab Peninsula, innovations of Medieval China and economies of Medieval Europe.

Martin’s students created graphic organizers to chart ideas, facts and information contained in the units’ non-fiction readers and then used this data to identify central & supporting ideas, details and summarizing. They also learned to synthesize by writing analytical essays comparing and contrasting the regions.

The three units were also the inspiration for several student art projects.

Martin has extensive experience with art integration thanks to a Palm Beach County School District grant program that allowed her to study with Kennedy Center Teaching Artists over several years. Drawing upon this experience, Martin put a unique spin to the EEI Curriculum lessons by engaging her students in alternative modality experiential learning:

While studying the Arab Trade Networks unit, Martin’s students created clothespin dolls to represent Arab travelers and traders. The students labeled their figures with the following information: from where they were traveling, to where they were going, and what goods they were transporting.

As students worked their way through Genius Across the Centuries, they learned how to make paper. The unit covers how Chinese inventions and discoveries have influenced the natural and human systems of medieval China and the modern world.

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After completing the third unit, Managing Nature’s Bounty, Martin’s students visually synthesized the different world regions they studied over the course of the school year. Using art supplies and clippings from magazines, they created thematic poster collages that summarized and integrated lessons learned and each unit’s main idea from the three regions during the medieval time period.

Martin says she looks forward to teaching and expanding upon these EEI Curriculum units during the upcoming school year. In particular, she is committed to working with teachers who have translated some of the units so her Spanish Language Arts colleague is able to bring environment-based learning to his Spanish language Social Studies Units.

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