Using the Guidelines for Excellence to Improve Practice
Each of the Guidelines for Excellence publications has been developed with the expressed purpose of helping us improve our own practice as environmental educators. In this blog posting, Yash Bhagwanji describes how he uses Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence in one of his courses. He’s also provided some wonderful examples of his students’ work.
I’m particularly grateful to Yash for sharing his experiences and his students’ work. I encourage others to share how you are using the Guidelines for Excellence. Do you use them to develop activity guides, design or redesign programs, or think about your own professional development needs? We’d love to hear from you. Post a comment or question. Feel free to send me your own blog posting. Through your willingness to share, we all learn.
University Course Encourages Innovative Designs in Early Childhood Environmental Education Programming
Yash Bhagwanji, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University
In Foundations of Early Childhood Environmental Education, pre-service early childhood teachers are encouraged to imagine and develop an “ideal” program that integrates the study of nature. The Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence serves as the primary framework for programming, ensuring that students consider all essential components required in appropriately delivering either nature-based or nature-integrated experiences. Supplemented by in-depth discussions of the guidelines, concepts of importance in both early childhood and environmental education, and other essential reading resources, students are expected to work in groups of 3-4 in writing a “handbook” describing their ideal programs. Louv’s books as well and Moore & Cooper’s Nature Play & Learning Places are among several required readings in the course.
The student groups are encouraged to articulate important contextual information as well, such as a name for the program, its location and size, pertinent accreditation, licensing and operational information, and other relevant descriptions and illustrations that further help define the program. This assignment serves as an example where students are required to bring together many types of previous learning and knowledge, and together with the new learning experiences, to compose an organized narrative describing the many possibilities for effective programs in early childhood environmental education. Overall, the pre-service early childhood teachers are supported in integrating the Guidelines for Excellence in their thinking and practices, and are encouraged to be curriculum and program innovators when they start their careers as educators of young children.
We’ve posted three examples of the student-designed programs, each intended as an easy-to-read handbook and appealing to a wide range of audiences and stakeholders: Bloom into Your Academy, Nurturing Nature Learning Center, and Silver Palms Nature Center.