March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

California’s Science Curriculum Framework Revision and Education and the Environment Curriculum

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Will Parish

As you may already be aware, California’s Science Curriculum Framework revision process is well underway. This topic is of keen interest to me on two levels: as a former high school Environmental Science teacher (and former member of California’s Instructional Quality Commission), and as current Executive Director of Ten Strands—a San Francisco based nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that all California’s K-12 students have access to high quality, standards-based environmental education.

The state laid out an inclusive process encouraging the public to comment on the final recommendations to the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee. Ten Strands has been an active participant through attendance at multiple focus groups, and by enabling Dr. Gerald Lieberman to play a key role in the process. We were pleased to see the Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs) that underpin the EEI Curriculum included in the draft guidelines for the Framework.

EEI Curriculum 1.2.a. Surviving and Thriving

EEI Curriculum 1.2.a. Surviving and Thriving

The EEI Curriculum, developed as a result of the Education and the Environment Initiative (AB 1548), is a landmark environment-based science and history-social science curriculum for California K-12 schools. It is a free resource, consisting of 85 state-adopted and approved units that complement existing instructional materials, allowing teachers to substitute curriculum units for portions of the textbooks they are currently using. This approach enhances student learning by bringing engaging environment-based lessons into the classroom and building student knowledge about human interdependency with the environment as they progress through the grades. The Curriculum cultivates an understanding of fundamental environmental issues, including where our food, energy, and water come from and the complicated decision-making processes related to climate change, green chemistry, and use of public lands.

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Working closely with Cal Recycle’s Office of Education and the Environment (OEE), Ten Strands has greatly increased OEE’s ability to get the Curriculum into classrooms and train teachers in how to use it effectively. During the 2013-14 school year, 3,000 teachers taught 145,000 students EEI Curriculum units. We also provided support for showing the tight correlation of the Curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, and are currently supporting correlation to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

California’s adoption of the NGSS is a driver of the science revision process, and the Environmental Principles and Concepts are very timely and significant in this discussion. The goal of the EP&Cs is to examine the interactions and interdependence of human societies and natural systems and provide the framework of what California students should be learning to build environmental literacy. The substance of the EP&Cs are consistent with the conceptual shifts embodied in the K-12 Science Framework, and are embedded throughout the NGSS. Additionally, the EEI Curriculum (built around the EP&Cs) provides excellent support for many of the NGSS science and engineering practices, and for mastery of many of the NGSS performance expectations.

The NGSS Framework identifies seven crosscutting concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries, whose purpose is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world. There appears to be an especially strong correlation of the EP&Cs and the EEI Curriculum with these crosscutting concepts, as well as with their guiding principles.

The goal that all students should learn about the relationships among science, technology, society, and the environment is also addressed, where the framework identifies two core ideas: the interdependence of science, engineering and technology, and the influence of science, engineering and technology on society and the natural world. It is the second core idea that the EEI Curriculum dovetails especially nicely with, specifically which scientific discoveries and technological decisions affect human society and the natural environment, and that people make decisions for social and environmental reasons that ultimately guide the work of scientists and engineers.

As a former teacher, I understand the importance of quality resources and materials to engage and educate students. When I began using the EEI Curriculum in my high school classes, I recognized it as an important tool. The response from teachers using the Curriculum indicates that opinion is shared—in a recent survey, 97% of teachers using it said they would use it again in the next school year.

Environment-based education is an effective way to teach students using a cross-disciplinary approach. Given West Ed’s findings around the challenges in science education at the elementary and middle school levels, published in High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California and Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in California, identifying and supporting pathways into developing scientific thinking in students early in their education is especially critical. Using the EEI Curriculum in concert with suggested extensions, including inquiry-based and project-based activities, can help to fill the need for early science education.

Supporting such pathways and collaborating with teachers, state and local entities, community organizations, and informal education providers is how Ten Strands is helping to identify and achieve common goals. We share a vision where all California’s students have a solid foundation that encourages critical and scientific thinking with a strong component of environmental literacy as they strive toward a sustaining future.

If you are interested in getting involved with Ten Strands, visit their web pages at http://tenstrands.org/get-involved/donors/ and/or http://tenstrands.org/get-involved/community/

You can find out about upcoming EEI training opportunities at http://www.californiaeei.org/training/

Will Parish is the Executive Director at Ten Strands, and is a member of CSTA

 

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

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