Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and National Standards


Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and National Standards

How environmental education is conceptualized and implemented in elementary and secondary schools is critical if we are to meet our ultimate goal of environmental literacy. Integrated across the curriculum, environmental education draws upon the natural and physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  These disciplines are connected not only through the medium of the environment, but also through the development of environmental issue investigation and action skills needed for civic engagement.  In the end, however, the ability of school systems to provide comprehensive environmental education will depend on its systematic and cohesive integration into the standards-based curriculum. Although we know that curriculum can be designed that supports both academic achievement and the development of environmental literacy, we also know that this type of curriculum planning takes work. It requires a thorough understanding of the standards and of the components of environmental literacy.

New sets of standards have been published over the last several years (e.g., NGSS and C3). As teachers and other educators begin the process of mapping their curriculum and developing the instructional strategies necessary to implement these standards fully, it seemed useful to provide resources that highlight some of the linkages between these standards and environmental literacy.

When all of the cross-references between the national standards and the environmental literacy framework as articulated in the K-12 EE Guidelines for Excellence are taken together, distinct patterns emerge.  These patterns help us answer two questions important to curriculum development:

  1. how can environmental literacy instruction best support the implementation of a standards based curriculum and
  2. how can instruction designed to address disciplinary standards also support the development of environmental literacy.