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Schools To Teach Environmental Literacy

We almost missed this cheery news from the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times:

Push to strengthen environmental education is gaining traction

MARY ELLEN GABRIEL | Special to The Capital Times | Posted: Wednesday, March 3, 2010

[L]ess than 10 percent of Madison classes visit the [local] forest each year. This, even though the district makes room in a tight budget for one bus trip and naturalist-led tour of the school forest per year, per teacher. And then there’s the state’s environmental education mandate. Wisconsin requires every school district to “develop and implement a written, sequential curriculum plan incorporating instruction in environmental education into all subject area curriculum plans.”

“There’s a state mandate to teach environmental ed, but it has no teeth,” concedes Tim Peterson, hired a year and a half ago as the district’s science and environmental education coordinator.

That may be about to change.

Across the country, states are busy setting goals for environmental literacy, including here in Wisconsin, where the state’s first Environmental Literacy Plan is being drafted by a new group, the Wisconsin chapter of the No Child Left Inside Coalition. State Superintendent Tony Evers asked the group, whose members represent key environmental education organizations, for the plan and has called for educators statewide to “renew our commitment to teaching students about environmental responsibility.”

This year, funding was restored for a long-vacant environmental education consultant position within the Department of Public Instruction. Among this staff member’s duties: making sure teachers are properly trained for environmental education, and providing districts with resources and technical assistance to help meet the state’s goals for environmental literacy.

The flurry of activity is partly due to rumors that the Obama administration is leaning toward including environmental education initiatives in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (previously known as the No Child Left Behind Act). The legislation may open up funding for states with strong environmental education programs and goals.

“We are not drafting the Environmental Literacy Plan solely for that reason,” says Ginny Carlton, administrative program specialist with the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board. “But if there is to be funding, we would like to be eligible.”

Outdoor learning offers a wealth of benefits. Studies show that students who regularly venture outside for observation and experiments outperform their peers in more traditional academic programs. Reduced discipline problems and increased engagement are other benefits, according to the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, Calif., which promotes the integration of nature-based learning with innovative K-12 curriculums.

Outdoor learning has also been shown to blur racial and income disparities, and a solid environmental education prepares children to understand an increasingly complex and unstable Earth

Certainly ‘environmental literacy’ will prepare student better than just plain old literacy when it comes to dealing with an increasingly unstable Earth.

After all, the important thing is to “blur racial and income disparities.” The Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California says so.

Besides, we have to get that grant money from Obama’s stash.

(Thanks to BillK for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, March 5th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Schools To Teach Environmental Literacy”

  1. BillK says:

    Reading? Writing? Arithmetic? Perhaps even Government?

    Nah, “Environmental Literacy.”

    From the ultra-liberal Madison, WI Capital Times:

    Push to strengthen environmental education is gaining traction

    By Mary Ellen Gabriel

    Two dozen seventh-graders from Jefferson Middle School toil up a stony ridge on snowshoes, in the heart of the Madison School Forest. At the top they peel off into small groups and stand gazing upward at a twiggy village of giant nests, silhouetted against a pure-blue sky.

    “How many do you see in your tree?” calls Nancy Sheehan, a school forest naturalist. The kids in her group count seven great blue heron nests in the bare branches of one towering white oak. They also record data about the tree, including its GPS location, which they’ll turn over to the Department of Natural Resources as part of ongoing monitoring of this heron rookery near the Sugar River in southwest Verona.

    “This is your chance to do some real science,” Sheehan tells them. “Herons are extremely sensitive creatures. If this landscape continues to suit them, they’ll come back again in spring. That’s why your work today is important.”
    Seventh-grader Amos Kalder’s cheeks are red with cold (and exercise) as he gazes upward at the rookery: “Dude, it’d be so cool to see these nests with all the herons in them. There’d be like 50 birds sitting in the sky.”

    Students’ excitement and a chance to tie classroom learning to the real world spurred Jill Olsen and Kristina Whiting to bring their seventh-graders to the school forest for the second time this year. “We’d come more often, but it’s a lot of coordination,” says Whiting, bustling back and forth between the campground shelter where a dog-sledding demo is under way, and the rough kitchen unit where she’s stirring soup. “It’s worth it, though. The kids really enjoy it and it’s a great way to learn.”

    The Madison Metropolitan School District’s School Forest is the mother of all outdoor classrooms, covering more than 300 acres of high-quality, ecologically diverse landscape that includes a white oak forest, sandstone outcroppings, a prairie and the heron rookery. Trails are meticulously maintained by a friends’ group; the DNR manages part of the site as a wildlife refuge; and a campground area includes rustic cabins and a nature center. Sinkhole mapping, naturalist-led tours, a ropes course and winter survival camp are available for teachers and students.

    Yet, less than 10 percent of Madison classes visit the forest each year. This, even though the district makes room in a tight budget for one bus trip and naturalist-led tour of the school forest per year, per teacher. And then there’s the state’s environmental education mandate. Wisconsin requires every school district to “develop and implement a written, sequential curriculum plan incorporating instruction in environmental education into all subject area curriculum plans.”

    In Madison, that mandate is seen as being met by a 2004 curriculum guide to the school forest.

    “We developed the resources needed for hands-on experiences at the school forest, grades K-8, that connect back to what’s being learned in the classroom,” explains Lisa Wachtel, the district’s teaching and learning coordinator. Dedicated naturalists, a detailed curriculum plan, and a free bus trip add up to a generously supported effort to make the school forest the “crown jewel” in the district’s environmental education plan. Yet most teachers do not visit.

    There’s a state mandate to teach environmental ed, but it has no teeth,” concedes Tim Peterson, hired a year and a half ago as the district’s science and environmental education coordinator.

    That may be about to change.

    Across the country, states are busy setting goals for environmental literacy, including here in Wisconsin, where the state’s first Environmental Literacy Plan is being drafted by a new group, the Wisconsin chapter of the No Child Left Inside Coalition. State Superintendent Tony Evers asked the group, whose members represent key environmental education organizations, for the plan and has called for educators statewide to “renew our commitment to teaching students about environmental responsibility.”

    This year, funding was restored for a long-vacant environmental education consultant position within the Department of Public Instruction. Among this staff member’s duties: making sure teachers are properly trained for environmental education, and providing districts with resources and technical assistance to help meet the state’s goals for environmental literacy.

    The flurry of activity is partly due to rumors that the Obama administration is leaning toward including environmental education initiatives in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (previously known as the No Child Left Behind Act). The legislation may open up funding for states with strong environmental education programs and goals.

    http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/local_schools/article_64b37e34-2642-11df-9ff5-001cc4c03286.html

    Remember that – while school districts demand ever more money from tax payers and the Federal Government, whining that American kids are falling behind those from overseas, students in China, India and Japan are busy learning Calculus, Computer Science, and multiple languages while American kids are taught “environmental responsibility.”

    I guess someone has to fill those “green jobs” – it sure won’t be American workers.

  2. proreason says:

    I’m confused.

    I was under the impression that environmental literacy is about the only thing government schools actually do teach today.

    Well, that and marxism for kiddies.

    And, of course, self esteem.

  3. NoNeoCommies says:

    Next semester, we will introduce Political Literacy (where we fill the little skulls up with anti-conservative hatred and intolerance).
    What? That’s already being taught?

    OK, we will teach the kids how to spout and share talking points; forward form letters and e-mails; astroturf; become proffesional protestors; verbally and physically assault opponents while claiming victimhood; etc.

  4. canary says:

    Guess Peterson never went to school, and worried he’ll lose his job. He should start in elementary school, and learn, science, biology, geography, etc.


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