Environmental Literacy


Environmental literacy is a matter of understanding and appreciating the natural world. Many of our students don’t understand the interconnectedness of living things, don’t recognize the effects of their actions on the world we live in, and therefore can’t make responsible decisions about their use of resources. With concerns about sustainability and green living increasing, future decision makers need to be able to understand and evaluate the news they hear and read.

For young students, environmental literacy can involve nature study as well as the new 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. All students can and should learn about habitats when they study plants and animals, about fuel sources and use when they study earth science, and about human issues such as water needs and sanitation when they study social studies. Older students can tackle more controversial topics: the nature of climate change, human responsibility for environmental damage, laws and regulations. They need to understand the more complex science issues, and to use critical thinking and math skills to evaluate data and arguments about environmental issues.

Online resources:

  • The North American Association for Environmental Education has a collection of environment-related lesson plans.
  • The Environmental Literacy Council has a teacher’s area with a lot of resources, including a growing testbank that allows you to generate exams on the subject.
  • When you use Google Earth, turn on “Global Awareness” in the panel on the left. It’s a portal to information ranging from endangered species with photos and intriguing details to water and sanitation data from Unicef. Depending on the options you check, you’ll get clickable links to extra info as you explore the world. This feature lends itself to lots of projects in science, social studies, media literacy, and tech skills. As a starting point, have each student choose a country to learn about and create a chart showing the environmental strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing that nation. Present to the class or create a bulletin board of the charts.
  • Project Green is an intensive study of your classroom environment.
  • Green Classrooms helps you set a good example in your classroom.
  • Arctic Triptych has activities for studying arctic animals and their habitats. There is also a PDF unit of reproducibles to go with the activities. The focus of the unit is on data analysis.
  • Encodazoo is a remarkable site which shares energy saving tips. It can also give younger students good practice with keyboard and mouse skills, including panning and navigation. It’s bilingual English and Japanese, good for fluent readers but with few words.

Books for your classroom library:

Add science kits for hands-on study:

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One Comment

  1. One must gain the proper knowledge and understanding of how intricate our environment is and how things are interrelated before they can take the necessary actions to preserve and protect it. We must put our political differences aside and unite so that everyone is aware of the importance of environmental responsibility.

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