Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards


Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards

How environmental education is conceptualized and implemented in elementary and secondary schools is critical if we are to meet our 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.

With the publication of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013), a new vision of science education was articulated. As teachers and other educators begin the process of mapping their curriculum and developing the instructional strategies necessary to implement NGSS fully, it seemed useful to provide a resource that highlights some of the linkages between this vision of science education and environmental literacy.

Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards is designed to provide a series of matrices that help to articulate the linkages between the NGSS Framework and NAAEE's K-12 Environmental Education: Guidelines for Excellence (2019). These matrices were developed with two distinct purposes in mind:

  1. to help educators identify natural opportunities to connect the curriculum through a comprehensive, cohesive vision of environmental literacy and
  2. to help educators identify how environmental education can support social studies education.

Ultimately, this document is meant to be used as a tool for curriculum development and instructional design.