Making Environmental Education Relevant for Students

Contextual-based learning is a teaching strategy that helps teachers relate subject matter content to real-world situations and encourages students to recognize the connection between the knowledge gained in the classroom and its application to their daily lives.

Contextual-based learning is a teaching strategy that helps teachers relate subject matter content to real-world situations and encourages students to recognize the connection between the knowledge gained in the classroom and its application to their daily lives. Teachers should integrate environmental education through contextual-based learning because it connects content to real-life and “centers on the belief that both the social context of the learning environment and the real, concrete context of knowing are pivotal to the acquisition and processing of knowledge.” (Source: Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning, 2012).  

A few of the strategies behind contextual-based learning include: 

  • Problem-based learning
  • Cooperative learning
  • Project-based learning 

Learn more about the connection between environmental education and contextual-based learning on our blog!

Relevant Links 

CAELI Community-Based Partner Hub

The Hub promotes environmental literacy by building educator awareness of environmental education community-based partners and their products and services and fosters educator-partner relationships for increased student enrichment and engagement.

California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI)

The California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI), led by Ten Strands, works statewide with guidance from a leadership council to create systems change in support of environmental literacy with a focus on access, equity, and cultural relevance for all students.

Ten Strands

Ten Strands weaves stakeholders and strategies together into strong, focused education partnerships, with the goal of raising environmental literacy by providing high-quality environment-based learning and hands-on education to all California K–12 students. Ten Strands acts as an incubator and a catalyst to create collaborations, build capacity, and transform systems to increase their impact and sustainability.

PBS Grade K-2 Lesson: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

In this media-rich lesson featuring LOOP SCOOPS videos, students consider how the concept of “needs” vs. “wants” can help them think about ways to protect Earth’s natural resources by reducing, reusing, and recycling materials. 

LEGO Grades 1-5 Lesson: Sort to Recycle 

Students design a device that sorts objects using their physical properties, including shape and size. 

CELF Grade 2 Project: Composting 

Students start a composting program in the school in partnership with a local community garden. Students will also create a presentation to share with the school to raise awareness on the issues of waste.

Human Impact on the Elkhorn Slough and its Watershed 

The multiple piece lesson focuses on observing human impacts on the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed and then applying that information to management questions. 

Living with the Land: An Environmental Study through Ohlone Worldview 

Living with the Land allows students to explore human relationships with the natural world from the perspective of Ohlone indigenous knowledge and contrasting western science approaches. By observing the wetland’s past and present, students learn about what wetlands provide and how humans impact this habitat.   

News and Events

Climate Change Impacts on California Biodiversity
Aug. 12, 2021 California Native Plant Society

This lecture will provide an overview of the science behind species distributions, and our projections and evidence of how plants are shifting in response to climate change, followed by a discussion about implications for conservation.

What We Learned: Climate and the Environment with Director Debbie Raphael
Aug. 12, 2021 Manny’s

Climate change is here and making an impact in our daily lives. Now, as we return to relatively normal life, have we learned anything about our relationship with the environment and the opportunities to save it?

7th Annual UMD Environmental Justice and Health Disparities Symposium
Aug. 19, 2021 Community Engagement, EJ, & Health (CEEJH)

This event will convene numerous community members, nonprofit organizers, and researchers for an in-depth examination of ongoing environmental justice and health disparity issues affecting the DC-Maryland-Virginia region.

How Can We Learn When Our Earth is Burning?
Aug. 03, 2021 The 74

This July, air quality worsened from Oregon to Maine as wildfire smoke traveled across northern states. New Yorkers woke up to an orange sun, and Utah’s worst drought turned deadly as a sandstorm blocked visibility on a major highway.

How to make our cities greener, healthier, wilder, and fairer
Aug. 05, 2021 World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum is collaborating with the Government of Colombia on BiodiverCities by 2030, a new global initiative to support city governments, businesses, and citizens to create an urban development model that works in harmony with nature.

As Enviro Education Tries To Keep Up With the Times, Govt Plans Stay Unclear
Aug. 05, 2021 The Wire

At present, Indian schools teach the environment as an infused subject. Several organizations are working to inculcate ideas about the environment and sustainable living among children. But the question remains: how far can these efforts go without the right policy?

How to cultivate environmental awareness at schools
Aug. 05, 2021 Nation of Change

How to tell children about ecology to show them respect for the environment and not turn such a lesson into a routine? Let’s take a deeper look at some options and how anyone can apply them in real life and class.

How joining a climate program could save Western Pennsylvania kids’ lives and lungs
Aug. 05, 2021 EHN

As Pennsylvania moves to join a regional greenhouse gas initiative, experts say it will also reduce toxics, foster healthier kids, and save the state billions. But GOP policymakers and industry groups remain opposed.

California’s Farmers Face Unprecedented Water Restrictions
Aug. 05, 2021 Gizmodo

The State Water Board moved to stop some Central Valley farmers from irrigating their crops with water diverted from rivers and streams.

This new technology could help cool people down—without electricity
Aug. 05, 2021 National Geographic

As climate change brings more extreme heat, air conditioning use is going to skyrocket, baking the planet even more. What if there were a way to cool without making warming worse?

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