ERIC Identifier: ED433195
Publication Date: 1998-12-00
Author: Haury, David L. - Milbourne, Linda A.
Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Choosing Instructional Materials for Environmental Education.
The overwhelming majority of American adults support environmental education
being taught in schools (National Environmental Education and Training
Foundation, 1997), but teachers wanting to include environmental education
within their classrooms face several formidable challenges. Instructional
materials are widely scattered and are of variable quality; the conceptual
foundation for environmental education spans several academic disciplines; until
recently there have been no broadly endorsed standards for curricular content;
and state requirements for environmental education are highly variable and
generally sketchy. These challenges, however, afford a unique opportunity for
informed teachers and schools; they have enormous latitude in deciding what is
to be taught and how it is to be taught. Anyone needing basic information on
environmental education and its goals can refer to "Environmental Education at a
Glance" (Call 1-800-825-5547, ext. 32).
FINDING INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
The first challenge in
selecting instructional materials is finding them. In addition to familiar
publishing houses, many corporations, professional associations, advocacy
groups, and government agencies produce environmental education materials.
Suggestions on where to look for instructional materials are offered in a guide
for bringing environmental education into the classroom (Bones, 1994). Suggested
places to look include:
*Local Resources, including County Cooperative Extension Services; nature
centers, parks, and museums; local libraries, government offices; institutions
of higher education; local chapters of professional organizations; and local
*State and Regional Resources, including state departments of natural
resources; regional Environmental Protection Agency offices; and state
department of education offices for environmental or energy education.
*Environmental education offices of federal agencies, including the
Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy,
Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Health and
Human Services, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Tennessee
*Non-Profit Organizations, including The Sierra Club, The National Wildlife
Federation, and The Friends of the Earth.
*Clearinghouses and Resource Centers, including the ERIC Clearinghouse for
Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education ((800) 276-0462,
http://www.ericse.org), Renew America Environmental Success Index
(http://solstice.crest.org/sustainable/renew_ america/), and Pembina Institute
for Appropriate Development (http://www.piad.ab.ca./publications.html). A
directory of information providers is available from the EETAP Resource Library
(contact [email protected]).
*Print Resources, including "The Environmental Education Collection: A Review
of Resources for Educators" (Vols. 1- 3) (North American Association for
Environmental Education (NAAEE), 1997 & 1998), "The Environmental Education
Teacher Resource Handbook: A Practical Guide for Teaching K-12 Environmental
Education" (Wilke, 1993), and "A Guide to Curriculum Planning in Environmental
Education" (Engleson & Yockers, 1994).
*Online Information, including EELink (http://eelink.net/), EcoNet
(http://www.igc.org:80/igc/en/), EnviroLink (http://www.envirolink.org/),
National Library for the Environment (http://www.cnie.org/nle/), EPA
Environmental Education Center (http://www.epa.gov/teachers/), Environmental
Education Internet Sites (http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/resources.html), Exploring
the Environment (http://www.cotf.edu/ete), Sharing Environmental Education
Knowledge (SEEK) (http://www.seek.state.mn.us/) and the Environmental
Organizations WebDirectory (http://www.webdirectory.com/).
SELECTING INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
instructional materials, environmental educators must carefully consider three
primary issues: (a) alignment of environmental education topics and content with
national standards, state curriculum frameworks, and existing courses of study;
(b) professionally accepted criteria for judging the quality of materials; and
(c) the needs, interests, and environmental circumstances of local students.
and National Standards
National standards for curricular content have been developed in several
subject areas, and most states are revising or updating state curriculum
frameworks to reflect national standards. Schools will be using state frameworks
to design or revise courses and programs. When selecting materials for school
environmental education programs, schools should consider any state curriculum
frameworks or guidelines having relevance to environmental education.
To review selected state science frameworks online, see
http://www.enc.org/reform/. For national guidelines and standards in
environmental education, see "Excellence in Environmental Education - Guidelines
for Learning (K-12)," (NAAEE, 1998). Curriculum standards for social studies are
online at http://www.ncss.org/standards/toc.html. Two curricular strands in
particular have implications for environmental education: "Global Connections"
and "People, Places, and Environment." The "National Science Education
Standards" are available online at
http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses/html/. Standards regarding "Personal
and Social Perspectives" are particularly relevant to environmental education,
and include topics such as human population, natural resources, environmental
quality, and environmental changes.
Because environmental education cuts across traditional curriculum
boundaries, many endorse the idea of using the environment as an integrating
context for learning. For more on this idea, see
http://www.seer.org/seer/Pages/GAP.html where an overview of "Closing the
achievement gap: Using the environment as the integrating context for learning"
is provided by the State Education and Environment Roundtable.
To assist educators in judging the quality of instructional materials, the
NAAEE has produced a guide, "Environmental education materials: Guidelines for
excellence" (1996) that presents six key characteristics of quality materials.
Guidelines are presented for each of the key characteristics, along with
indicators for evaluating materials. Following is an abbreviated outline of the
key characteristics and guidelines, accompanied by examples of materials
exhibiting some of the quality indicators for each key characteristic.
Fairness and Accuracy: Environmental education
materials should be fair and accurate in describing
environmental problems, issues, and conditions, and in
reflecting the diversity of perspectives on them.
1.1 Factual accuracy.
1.2 Balanced presentation of differing viewpoints and
1.3 Openness to inquiry.
1.4 Reflection of diversity.
Example: "A World in Our Backyard: A Wetlands Education
and Stewardship Program" (Grades 6-8, see: http://www.envmedia.com)
Depth: Environmental education materials should
foster awareness of the natural and built environments;
an understanding of environmental concepts, conditions,
and issues; and an awareness of the feelings, values,
attitudes, and perceptions at the heart of environmental
issues, as appropriate for different developmental
2.2 Focus on concepts.
2.3 Concepts in context.
2.4 Attention to different scales.
Example: "Project Learning Tree" (Grades PreK-8;
American Forest Foundation, 1993)
Emphasis on Skills Building: Environmental
education materials should build lifelong skills that
enable learners to prevent and address environmental
3.1 Critical and creative thinking.
3.2 Applying skills to issues.
3.3 Action skills.
Example: "Energy, Economics & the Environment: Case
Studies and Teaching Activities for Middle School"
(Grades 6-8; Indiana Department of Education, 1994)
Action Orientation: Environmental education
materials should promote civic responsibility,
encouraging learners to use their knowledge, personal
skills, and assessments of environmental issues as a
basis for environmental problem solving and action.
4.1 Sense of personal stake and responsibility.
Example: "Environmental Education in the Schools:
Creating a Program that Works" (Grades K-Adult; Braus &
Instructional Soundness: Environmental education
materials should rely on instructional techniques that
create an effective learning environment.
5.1 Learner-centered instruction.
5.2 Different ways of learning.
5.3 Connection to learners' everyday lives.
5.4 Expanded learning environment.
5.6 Goals and objectives.
5.7 Appropriateness for specific learning settings.
Example: "Global Systems Science Series" (Several
individually titled guides, Grades 9-12; Lawrence Hall of
Usability: Environmental education materials should
be well designed and easy to use.
6.1. Clarity and logic.
6.2 Easy to use.
6.3 Long lived.
6.5 Accompanied by instruction and support.
6.6 Make substantiated claims.
6.7 Fit with national, state, or local requirements.
Example: "The Cycles for Science Series" (Curriculum
supplements for grades 9-12; Rogers, 1996)
American Forest Foundation. (1993). "Project
learning tree." Washington, DC: Author.
Bones, D. (Ed.). (1994). "Getting started: A guide to bringing environmental
education into your classroom." Ann Arbor, MI: National Consortium for
Environmental Education and Training. [ED 373 981]
Braus, J.A., & Wood, D. (1994). "Environmental education in the schools:
Creating a program that works." Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science,
Mathematics, and Environmental Education. (1-800-276-0462, Spanish version
available) [ED 363 520]
Engleson, D. C., & Yockers, D. H. (1994). "A guide to curriculum planning
in environmental education." Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public
Instruction. [ED 380 306]
Indiana Department of Education. (1994). "Energy, economics & the
environment." Indianapolis, IN: Author. [ED 378 057]
Lawrence Hall of Science. (1998). "Global systems science series." Berkeley,
National Environmental Education and Training Foundation. (1997). "The
national report card on environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviors."
Washington, DC: Author. [SE 061 392]
NAAEE. (1996). "Environmental education materials: Guidelines for
excellence." Washington, DC: Author. [ED 403 145]
NAAEE. (1998). "Excellence in environmental education -- Guidelines for
learning (K12)." Washington, DC: Author. [SE 061 320]
NAAEE. (1997-98). "The environmental education collection: A review of
resources for educators (Vols. 1- 3)." Washington, DC: Author. [ED 416 079]
Rogers, D. (1996). "The cycles for science series." Pittsburgh, PA: Steel
Recycling Institute. (call 1-800-876-7274) [ED 393 651-653, ED 404 148]
Wilke, R. J. (Ed.). (1993). "Environmental education teacher resource
handbook: A practical guide for K-12 environmental education." Millwood, NY:
Kraus International Publications. (Available from ERIC/CSMEE, 1-800-276-0462)
[ED 365 550]