Conservation and Primary Students
Posted: Friday, April 8th, 2016
by Joey Noelle Lehnhard
As an educator at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I think about conservation a lot. The mission of the Aquarium is “to inspire conservation of the ocean,” and that straight-forward principle is at the center of everything we do. For teacher professional development, we host workshops that focus on current marine issues, such as ocean acidification, biodiversity, overfishing, oil spills, and ocean plastic pollution. However, my focus is on elementary education, and inspiring conservation in 2nd graders requires something very different.
Sometimes, as educators who care deeply about the environment, we think that our elementary students can handle these dense topics. We want our curriculum to be rigorous and so we boil down complex concepts into something that they can relate to and understand. Sometimes that works out, but, in the case of conservation education, it can backfire.
It’s called ecophobia (Sobel, 1996). And we all probably know someone who (unknowingly) suffers from it. It manifests itself in a persistent sense of powerlessness with regard to a variety of environmental issues. It’s the person who litters, thinking that just one piece of trash doesn’t really matter. It’s the hiker who jumps the fence protecting young saplings, thinking one person’s footsteps won’t make a difference. It can also result in aversion to or fear of the outdoors and nature. Often, these effects don’t reveal themselves until long after students have left our classrooms. Introducing young students to real issues makes an impact but perhaps not always the impact we want. So what should we do to more appropriately build students’ conservation ethic and love for nature?
Young students need extended, frequent, positive experiences in nature to develop a sense and appreciation of a particular place (Kudryavtsev, Stedman, & Krasny, 2012). These places should not be just any outdoor place but an outdoor space in their own community. In fact, the best thing we can do as educators (or parents) to help kids develop a conservation ethic is make sure they have extended positive experiences in nature as children (Palmer, 1993). When students experience and learn about the plants, animals, habitats, and ecosystems nearest to them first, they can better translate that knowledge to places farther away. This is why it is so important to thoroughly investigate our own schoolyards before we start teaching about more exotic places like rainforests or the arctic tundra.
This doesn’t mean that we have to shy away from every conservation topic. Primary elementary students can be empowered when they do something good for the open spaces around them. Connecting with animals is a powerful way to build toward pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes. They can also learn to have good environmental manners in their time outdoors. They can pick up litter, recycle, stay on trails, use water wisely, and be careful with and kind to living things. They can also engage in projects that will help their local environment like building bird boxes, planting trees, gardening, or removing invasive plants (Ardoin, 2013).
The Next Generation Science Standards outline a progression of topics in the Disciplinary Core Idea ESS3.C – Human impacts on Earth systems. The kindergarten through second grade section says, “Things people do can affect the environment but they can make choices to reduce their impacts.” ESS3.D – Climate Change is not even applicable until middle school.
So what does all this mean when thinking about conservation of the ocean and complex, current, environmental marine issues? It means that PreK-2nd grade teachers who teach along the coast should teach about the ocean because it is local and therefore relevant to their students. Those students should engage in ocean-side investigations and beach cleanups. It means that inland teachers should teach about their own local habitats and leave addressing more abstract or distant ecosystems to later grades. It means we should take the time to explore and build connections with nearby outdoor spaces and with the unique plants and animals that live there (Bora, McCrea, Herrmann, Hutchison, Pistillo, & Wirth 2010). We should feel confident that time spent this way is time well-spent, both for our students and for our Earth.
Ardoin, N. (2013). Influencing conservation action: What research says about environmental literacy, behavior, and conservation results. National Audubon Society.
Bora, S., McCrea, E., Gay, M., Herrmann, L., Hutchison, L., Pistillo, M., & Wirth, S. (2010). Early childhood environment education programs: Guidelines for excellence. The North American Association for Environmental Education Publications, Washington.
Kudryavtsev, A., Stedman, R. C., & Krasny, M. E. (2012). Sense of place in environmental education. Environmental education research, 18(2), 229-250.
Palmer, J. A. (1993). Development of concern for the environment and formative experiences of educators. The Journal of Environmental Education, 24(3), 26-30.
Sobel, D. (1996). Beyond ecophobia: Reclaiming the heart in nature education (No. 1). Orion Society.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…