Green Schools and Environmental Education
Climate change and its impacts are at the center of attention for governments, organizations, and individuals around the world. Wildfires, drought, rising sea levels, hurricanes, and climate-induced migration are a few of the effects that have brought the climate crisis to our doorstep and raised environmental consciousness to an all-time high. The fight against climate change needs to prioritize environmental education if we are to enable our society to take reasonable action towards a more sustainable future.
The benefits of teaching environmental education are numerous, but the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) highlights these as an example:
- Improves academic achievement
- Encourages environmental stewardship
- Deepens personal development and wellbeing
- Strengthens communities
Learn more about the benefits of environmental education with NEEF.
As we near the beginning of the 2021 school year, many teachers and school administrators may find themselves wondering how they can contribute to and prepare their students for the fight against climate change. From creating a green campus to integrating environmental education into the curriculum, we are excited to share a few ways that teachers and K-12 school administrators can work with Green Guardians to integrate environmental education into the K-12 school system and support students’ learning both in and beyond the classroom.
“Environmental education provides important opportunities for students to become engaged in real-world issues that transcend classroom walls. They can see the relevance of their classroom studies to the complex environmental issues confronting our planet and they can acquire the skills they’ll need to be creative problem solvers and powerful advocates.”Ms. Campbell, California’s Superintendent of San Mateo County Schools (source: Project Learning Tree)
Andra Yegohian, the Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Coordinator at San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE), is focused on creating impact and driving change from the classroom to the site, county, and state levels through environmental education. Her experience integrating environmental education and whole school sustainability at the site level has been through the creation of green campuses. A green campus is one that has a balanced ecological footprint, is climate-resilient, inclusive, carbon-neutral, and creates natural habitats to restore the footprint. Learn more about how school districts can use COVID Relief Funds to invest in green schools and campuses with UndauntedK12.
At the classroom level, teachers can discuss their school’s ecological footprint with students and supplement their learning through environmental literacy lesson plans and environmental education community-based partners. Here are a few examples of how teachers can start the conversation:
Include environmental literacy-based lesson plans into their curriculum
- My Journey to Zero Waste discusses the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – and encourages students to acknowledge the waste they contribute through 5 lessons that are relevant and relatable to their experience
- Bananas About Bananas discusses the process of how a Banana makes the trip from Ecuador to the United States and the environmental impact that their healthy snack has in their community
Work with environmental education community-based partners to introduce new topics to students that are relevant and engaging
- Participate in a program that highlights the environmental impact of plastic – such as 5 Gyre’s Trash Academy
- Invite a partner to speak in the classroom about water supply that educates students on how they receive clean drinking water – such as Stockton Area Water Suppliers (SAWS)
There is a multitude of ways to get started on the transition to a green school. All it takes is one teacher, one administrator, or one green leader to act as a catalyst for change. No matter where you start, any introduction to environmental education can serve as a foundation for lasting change and a sustainable future.
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“Five Guiding Principles: How Districts Can Use COVID Relief Funds to Advance Healthy, Green Schools” provides useful, actionable information for school districts as they consider how to use these relief funds to meet local needs. The brief identifies examples of school facility improvements as well as curriculum and training that both align with allowed uses and provide long-term benefits.
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Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. iNaturalist shares your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe.
Their mission is to unlock the power of the education sector to be a force toward climate action, solutions, and environmental justice to help prepare children and youth to advance a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable society.
Environmental education (EE) is often lauded by educators as an ideal way to integrate academic disciplines, stimulate the academic and social growth of young people, and promote conservation of the natural environment.
Based on learning from the BedZED eco-village, Bioregional created the One Planet Living sustainability framework – comprising ten simple principles and detailed goals and guidance – and developed it together with WWF.
A growing base of research is documenting the impacts of environmental education.
Explore Andra’s site for the San Mateo County Office of Education. You’ll find a seemingly endless number of useful resources and information on the work SMCOE is doing. These paid fellowships build teacher and administrative capacity for driving sustainable and climate-resilient transformative change in their classroom and school communities.
These paid fellowships build teacher and administrative capacity for driving sustainable and climate-resilient transformative change in their classroom and school communities.