Connecting college students and preschoolers through an environmental literacy course | eePRO @ NAAEE
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Connecting college students and preschoolers through an environmental literacy course

Hi,
I am the director of the early childhood center at the University of Connecticut as well a faculty member in Human Development and Family Sciences. UConn has just added an Environmental Literacy requirement for all undergraduate students. I would like to create a course that brings together our preschool children with the college students around environmental literacy with a focus on one or more of the following:

1. theories, observations, or models of how humans impact the health and well-being of the natural world;
2. theories, observations, or models of how the natural world affects human health and well-being;
3. public policies, legal frameworks, and/or other social systems that affect the environment;
4. moral and/or ethical dimensions regarding the environment;
5. cultural, creative, or artistic representations of human-environment interactions.

In my searches, I haven't found any models for this so I am hoping people might have some thoughts to share! Thank you!

Anne - you might find helpful info and related research, articles by searching the field of conservation psychology. Researchers at The Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo were
first to publish their findings on human/nature connections & impacts - and launched the field of conservation psychology. Also look for research by Louise Chawla. You’ll see her name listed on probably every article you find - so just go right to her publications! Hope this info is helpful! Such an interesting idea you have! For connecting preschoolers wit college students. NatureStart Professional Development Program that I lead seeks to help educators working with young children in ECE classrooms as well as in in informal settings understand and appropriately connect to young children and their way of learning about their world around them - based on principles grounded in conservation psychology.
Keep us posted on your work!

Hi Anne,
Great to read about your initiative, I have attached a list of ECEfS publications that may be of assistance here, plus a book chapter that offers some revised models related to Bronfenbrenner. Also I have just returned from the EECERA conference in Greece where a conference symposium was held about EC teacher education and ECEfS, Prof Julie Davis QUT Australia has conducted research in this area and identified there is little research internationally to inform how best to incorporate EC EfS in EC teacher education and only a few EC teacher education courses in Australia where it is explicit due to the impact of certain individual academics. This is to be published next year in a second volume of our 2014 Routledge research publication.
I will be at NAAEE in October, hope we might connect there?
All the best with your endeavours, Regards Sue

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Anne, I teach a class where undergraduates work toward a certification as Early Childhood Environmental Educators at Miami University’s Hefner Museum of Natural History. Undergraduates come from a variety of disciplines, including, but not limited to biology, art, zoology, education, psychology and environmental science. The certification is a nice vehicle to create the connection between child, educator, and nature-based inquiry. The focus is more aligned to #1 of the themes you offered. However, we touch upon several others noted due to the diverse undergraduate disciplines. In teaching young children about the environment, we believe it's critical to use the inquiry method, in which the child is actively engaged in his/her own learning. Our undergraduates create activities that are student centered, student driven, and connect prior learning to new knowledge. Class participants pilot their nature-based activities at the early childhood campus facility, local schools, area farmers’ markets, etc. Through class activities, readings, field trips, inquiry modeling, and independent projects, undergraduates broaden their science content knowledge and learn effective pedagogical strategies. Did I mention former students stated the certification increased their job marketability? I will be attending the NAAEE conference (poster) and would enjoy connecting with anyone interested in discussing the model. We plan to implement a middle childhood cert for undergraduates teaching grades 4-9 in spring. I am interested in learning if there are any steps toward accreditation for an early childhood certification, as I have seen very little in this area available. Anne, it is great that UConn added Environmental Literacy as a requirement and kudos to you for incorporating it into your coursework.

Thank you all for the great resources and feedback. I am very excited about all of the possibilities with this but it is also making my head spin! We are certified as a "Nature Explore" program through the National Arbor Day Society so have done a lot around nature-play, nature exploration with children with the children in our center. The preschools take walks on campus, spend time in the woods, we have a hydroponic growing system, etc. I teach an introductory practicum experience and teach the pre-service student teachers. I'm trying to figure out how to entice students into the course who aren't necessarily going to be teachers in a way that is meaningful for them and extend their environmental literacy. I really appreciate any and all suggestions/ideas/resources--thank you!

The courses I teach are also in a classroom setting with undergraduate students who are not likely to become teachers. I try to approach the course as a way for them to gain experience listening and learning from others, because often the experience makes them uncomfortable, and that is the best challenge to have in stretching our social engagement skills. Even the most resistant students in the beginning find the partnership enriching and see their skills and confidence grow. They often end the course with a profound and new appreciation for children's capacities and thinking. Good luck!

The courses I teach are also in a classroom setting with undergraduate students who are not likely to become teachers. I try to approach the course as a way for them to gain experience listening and learning from others, because often the experience makes them uncomfortable, and that is the best challenge to have in stretching our social engagement skills. Even the most resistant students in the beginning find the partnership enriching and see their skills and confidence grow. They often end the course with a profound and new appreciation for children's capacities and thinking. Good luck!