Essential Elements of Sustainability Education
|Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas:
e.) Environmental issues - Learners are familiar with a range of environmental issues at scales that range from local to national to global. They understand that these scales and issues are often linked.
d.) Evaluating the results of actions - Learners are able to evaluate the effects of their own actions and actions taken by other individuals and groups, including possible intended and unintended consequences of actions.
4.d.) Accepting personal responsibility - Learners understand that their actions can have broad consequences and accept responsibility for recognizing those effects and changing their actions when necessary.
|Behaviors and Actions:
d.) Accepting personal responsibility - Learners understand that their actions can have broad consequences and accept responsibility for recognizing those effects and changing their actions when necessary.
Sharing best practices and case studies, empowering individuals and communities to take action, encouraging: compassion, empathy, mindfulness, consciousness,
|The Classroom or Educational Setting|
|Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Practices Aligned With Learning Outcomes:
The learner is an active participant. If learning is to become a natural, valued part of life, instruction should be guided by the learner’s interests and treated as a process of building knowledge and skills. Using the Guidelines for Learning (K-12) framework and knowledge of individual learners, educators can make instruction relevant to specific learners at particular developmental levels.
Instruction provides opportunities for learners to enhance their capacity for independent thinking and effective, responsible action. Engaging in individual and group work helps learners develop these capacities independently and in collaborative situations that anticipate the ways in which problem solving happens in the community, on the job, and in the family. A strong emphasis on developing communications skills means that learners will be able to both demonstrate and apply their knowledge.
Because environmental issues can prompt deep feelings and strong opinions, educators must take a balanced approach to instruction. Educators incorporate differing perspectives and points of view even-handedly and respectfully, and present information fairly and accurately.
Environmental literacy depends on a personal commitment to apply skills and knowledge to help ensure environmental quality and quality of life. For most learners, personal commitment begins with an awareness of what immediately surrounds them. Instructors foster learners’ innate curiosity and enthusiasm, providing them with early and continuing opportunities to explore their environment. Experiencing and observing the local environment helps learners build a strong foundation of skills and knowledge for reaching out further into the world and deeper into the conceptual understands that environmental literacy demands. Direct experience in the environment also helps foster the awareness and appreciation that motivate learners to further questioning, better understanding, and appropriate concern and action. Taking students out of the classroom and into the community is an important instructional strategy for engaging students in direct discovery of the world around them.
The framework, Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning (K-12), articulates learner concepts, skills and dispositions. How the framework is linked to the development of curriculum, instruction, and assessment is described in a companion document: Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators (NAAEE 2010). This set of guidelines, organized into six themes, speaks to educators’ competencies, what they are doing to prepare curriculum, deliver instruction, and assess learner outcomes.
Theme Four: Planning and Implementing Environmental Education
Educators combine the fundamentals of high-quality education with the unique features of environmental education to design and implement effective instruction. They provide the interdisciplinary, hands-on, investigative learning opportunities that are central to environmental literacy.
4.1 Knowledge of learners - Educators know how to tailor instructional approaches to meet the needs of, yet challenge, different learners. They apply theories of cognitive and moral or social development in creating an environmental instructional plan for a particular age, class or group. They understand theories such as multiple intelligences and learning styles and organize instruction to accommodate different approaches to learning. They recognize and acknowledge the validity of varying cultural perspectives present in groups of learners and tailor instructional approaches to respond to these perspectives and use them as an educational resource.
4.2 Knowledge of instructional methodologies – Educators are familiar with and can employ a range of instructional methods that are particularly suited to environmental education. For example, some essential approaches to environmental education instruction include:
4.3 Planning for instruction – Educators are able to plan age-appropriate environmental education instruction and programs that meet specific instructional goals.
4.4 Knowledge of environmental education materials and resources – Educators are aware of a range of materials and resources for their environmental efforts and understand how to access, evaluate, and use these resources. They demonstrate ways in which the community can be a resource for instruction, identifying local businesses, service organizations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and others that may participate in and support programs.
4.5 Technologies that assist learning – Educators are familiar with a range of technologies available to assist student learning. They use a variety of tools for environmental observation, measurement, and monitoring.
4.6 Settings for instruction – Educators understand the importance of a safe and conducive learning environment both indoors and outside. They identify, create, and use diverse settings for environmental education, appropriate to different subject matter and available resources. These may include the school yard, laboratory, field settings, community settings, museums, zoos, demonstration sites, and other places. They plan and implement instruction that first links content to learners’ immediate surroundings and experience, then expands learners’ horizons as appropriate to larger environmental issues and contexts.
4.7 Curriculum planning – Educators are familiar with ways of including environmental education in the curriculum (e.g., infusion, integration, theme-based, standards-based).
Theme Six: Assessment and Evaluation
Educators possess the knowledge, abilities, and commitment to make assessment and evaluation integral to instruction and programs. Professional preparation should provide educators with tools for assessing learner progress and evaluating the effectiveness of their own programs.
6.1 Learner outcomes – Educators understand the importance of tying assessment to learning. They state expected learner outcomes and engage learners in setting their own expectations for achievement.
6.2 Assessment that is part of instruction – Educators are familiar with ways of incorporating assessment into environmental education. They make objectives and other expectations clear to learners at the outset of instruction, implement performance-based assessments, develop formative and summative assessments, identify techniques for encouraging learners to assess their own and others’ work, and use assessments to improve learning experiences.
6.3 Improving instruction – Educators know how to use their instructional experiences and assessments to improve future instruction.
6.4 Evaluating programs – Educators understand the importance of evaluating environmental education programs and are familiar with basic evaluation approaches.
|Characteristics of Authentic Engagement:
Some of the Essential Underpinnings of the Environmental literacy Framework, outlined above under Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas, begin to describe some of the key characteristics necessary for authentic engagement:
The importance of where one lives: Beginning close to home, learners forge connections with, explore, and understand their immediate surroundings. The sensitivity, knowledge, and skills needed for this local connection provides a base for moving out into larger systems, broader issues, and an expanding understanding of causes, connections, and consequences.
Roots in the real world: Learners develop knowledge and skills through direct experience with the environment, environmental issues, and society. Investigation, analysis, and problem solving are essential activities and are most effective when relevant to the real world.
The importance of civic engagement and action taking: Working individually or in groups, an informed, skilled, motivated and active citizenry is critical to improving the well-being of individuals, societies, and the global environment now and in the future.
Lifelong learning: Critical and creative thinking, decision making, and communication, as well as collaborative learning are emphasized. These skills are essential for active and meaningful learning, both in school and over a lifetime.
In addition, Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators (NAAEE 2010) further speaks to what educators are doing to establish a learning context for authentic engagement.
Theme Five: Fostering Learning
Environmental educators must enable learners to engage in open inquiry and investigation, especially when considering environmental issues that are controversial and require learners to seriously reflect on their own and others’ perspectives. The following describes some of what the educator must do in order to set the stage for authentic engagement.
5.1 A climate for learning about and exploring the environment – Educators understand how to create a climate in which learners are intellectually stimulated and motivated to learn about the environment (e.g., relating the idea of lifelong learning to instructional practices that engage learners in taking responsibility for their own learning and expectations for achievement).
5.2 An inclusive and collaborative learning environment – Educators know how to maximize learning by fostering openness and collaboration among learners (e.g., encourage flexibility, creativity, and openness, implement management techniques that foster independent and productive group work, include diverse cultures, races, genders, social groups, ages, and perspectives with respect, equity, and an acknowledgment of the value of such diversity, use diverse backgrounds and perspectives as instructional resources).
5.3 Flexible and responsive instruction – Educators know how to augment proper planning with the flexibility that allows them to take advantage of new instructional opportunities.
|Characteristics of Institution-Community Partnerships: Although the characteristics of community partnerships are not detailed, the importance of partnerships is addressed, in part, in another document in the Guidelines for Excellence series: Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence (NAAEE 2009). The guidelines outline a program development model. Some of the important steps, including needs assessment and identification of organizational needs and capacities, are essential to building any partnership.
Key Characteristic #1: Needs Assessment
Programs are designed to address identified environmental, educational, and community needs and to produce responsive, responsible benefits that address those identified needs.
1.2 Inventory of existing programs and materials – The environmental education program builds on existing resources and complements existing programs. Community and organizational strengths and resources have been inventoried to see if present resources can be adapted or adopted to fill the need, and identify gaps that might hinder the successful development of the program.
1.3 Audience Needs – The environmental education program reflects a careful analysis and consideration of the target audience(s). The cultural perspectives, needs, and interests of the target audience have been identified, understood, accommodated, and addressed in program development and activities.
Key Characteristic #2: Organizational Needs and Capacities
Programs support and complement their parent organizations’ mission, purpose, and goals.
2.1 Consistent with organizational priorities – The environmental education program is consistent with, and supportive of, parent organization priorities and objectives.
2.2 Organization’s need for the program identified – The environmental education program fills an identified need within existing activities of the sponsoring organization.
2.3 Organization’s existing resources inventoried – The sponsoring organization has the means and will to support the program.
Key Characteristic #3: Program Scope and Structure
Programs should be designed with well-articulated goals and objectives that state how the program will contribute to the development of environmental literacy.
Environmental Literacy Framework
Although the environmental literacy frameworks articulated in Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning (K-12) (first published in 1999 and most recently revised in 2010) and later in the Framework for Assessing Environmental Literacy ( Hollweg, K. S., Taylor, J. R., Bybee, R. W., Marcinkowski, T. J., McBeth, W. C., & Zoido, P. 2011) draw from a wide range of research and writing, including the Bruntland Commission (Brundtland 1987), the United National Conference on Environment and Development in Rio (UNCED 1992), the International Conference on Environment and Society in Thessaloniki (UNESCO 1998) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (United Nations 2002), they are rooted in the Belgrade Charter (1976) and the goals and objectives outlined in the 1977 Tbilisi Declaration (http://resources.spaces3.com/a30712b7-da01-43c2-9ff0-b66e85b8c428.pdf).
- To foster clear awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence in urban and rural area;
- To provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment, and skills needed to protect and improve the environment;
- To create new patterns of behavior of individuals, groups, and society as a whole towards the environment.
Awareness: to help social groups and individuals acquire an awareness and sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems.
Knowledge: to help social groups and individuals gain a variety of experience in, and acquire a basic understanding of, the environment and its associated problems.
Attitudes: to help social groups and individuals acquire a set of values and feelings of concern for the environment and the motivation for actively participating in environmental improvement and protection.
Skills: to help social groups and individuals acquire the skills for identifying and solving environmental problems.
Participation: to provide social groups and individuals with an opportunity to be actively involved at all levels in working toward resolution of environmental problems.
From its earliest days, environmental literacy has:
- Defined the environment broadly to include natural ecosystems as well as human created systems (e.g., transportation, agriculture, cities);
- Encompassed knowledge about economic, social, political, cultural, natural, and physical systems and how each of these systems is interrelated;
- Depended upon the development of a rich set of citizen engagement dispositions and decision-making skills;
- Focused on the engagement and empowerment of all individuals, groups and societies;
- Been committed to illuminating the relationship between a quality environment and quality of life; and
- Focused on empowering individuals and groups to move from awareness to action where action resolves current problems and prevents new ones.
It is essential to understand that environmental literacy is a complex process that is not linear and does not end with a simple set of activities. The interrelated nature of the environmental literacy components are illustrated in the following graphic from the Framework for Assessing Environmental Literacy:
Some Context – How Were the Guidelines Developed?
From the very beginning, there was a strong desire to ensure that each publication in the Guidelines for Excellence series were research based and reflected a widely shared understanding of environmental education practice. They were developed through a broad process of critique and consensus where at least four drafts were offered for public review and comment. Review comments were used not only to test and revise the basic framework for the individual set of guidelines, but also to develop every detail of the final document from overall structure to examples, and glossary terms to references. Throughout the process, thousands of individuals and organizations participated. Although comments were received from individuals from over 30 countries, the vast majority of comments were from North America.
Brundtland, G.H. (1989) Our Common Future: The World Commission on environment and Development. NY: Oxford University Press.
Hollweg, K. S., Taylor, J. R., Bybee, R. W., Marcinkowski, T. J., McBeth, W. C., & Zoido, P.
(2011). Developing a framework for assessing environmental literacy. Washington, DC: North
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North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) 2010. Excellence in Environmental Education – Guidelines for Learning (K-12) – Executive Summary & Self Assessment Tool (revised), Washington, DC: NAAEE. 32 pages, Available for free download at http://eelinked.naaee.net/n/guidelines/posts/Executive-Summary-and-Self-Assessment-Tool
North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) 2010. Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators (revised), Washington, DC: NAAEE. 39 pages, Available for free download at http://eelinked.naaee.net/n/guidelines/posts/Guidelines-for-the-Preparation-amp-Professional-Development-of-Environmental-Educators
North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) 2009. Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence (revised), Washington, DC: NAAEE. 36 pages, Available for free download at http://eelinked.naaee.net/n/guidelines/posts/Nonformal-Environmental-Education-Programs-Guidelines-for-Excellence
Simmons, B., Bhagwanji, Y. & Ribe, R. (2013) Promoting excellence in environmental education. In Monroe, M. & Krazney, M. (eds.) Across the Spectrum: Resources for Environmental Educators. North American Association for Environmental Education. http://www.naaee.net/publications/AcrosstheSpectrum
UNCED (1992) Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development. Rio declaration on environment and Development. NY: United Nations.
UNESCO-UNEP (1976) The Belgrade Charter. Connect: UNESCO-UNEP environmental Education Newsletter. Vol. 1 (1) pp. 1-2.
UNESCO (1978) Final Report: Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education. Organized by UNESCO in Cooperation with UNEP. Tbilisi, USSR. 14-26 October 1977, Paris: UNESCO ED/MD/49 (http://resources.spaces3.com/a30712b7-da01-43c2-9ff0-b66e85b8c428.pdf)
UNESCO (1978) Environment and Society: Education and Public Awareness for sustainability. Proceedings of the Thessaloniki International conference. Paris: UNESCO.
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