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: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
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.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…