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October 8, 2014

21st Century Interdisciplinary Theme

Environmental Literacy

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, schools must not only focus on mastery of core subjects, but also promote understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into those subjects. One of these themes is environmental literacy, which includes knowledge and understanding of the environment and the circumstances and conditions affecting it. It also involves investigating and analyzing environmental issues and making accurate conclusions about effective solutions. And it encourages individual and collective action toward addressing environmental challenges.

Here are some ideas for developing your students’ environmental literacy.

Eyes on the Earth

Climate Kids is NASA’s climate change website for children. On Climate Kids, you’ll find a selection of online games and hands-on activities for students. Some of the topics that the Climate Kids online games address include recycling, renewable energy and climate history. Some of the hands-on activities featured include repurposing old clothing to make reusable shopping bags, creating your own paper and making a terrarium mini-garden.

Before students jump into the games or hands-on activities, they should work through the guided big questions wheel. The guided questions walk students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Seven big questions are featured on the wheel. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a combination of image, text and video explanations.

Climate Kids also includes a page for teachers with a directory of resources aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. The page for teachers also offers galleries of media that you can use in your climate change lesson plans.

Literature in the Garden

Libraries, which are always searching for new ways to connect with their communities, have often offered reading gardens and outdoor storytelling to foster a connection with nature and the environment. Today, via a library’s outdoor learning space, librarians are participating in the growing movement to connect children with the environment.

Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, New York, is the first library in the nation to offer a Nature Explorium, an outdoor learning space for children and families developed in collaboration with the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids (LINCK). In partnership with the National Grid Foundation, a supporter of nature literacy, the Nature Explorium has developed the freely downloadable Growing Nature Literacy in Libraries Resource Book as a unique way for families to connect literacy, learning and an appreciation for nature as a regular part of the library visit.

What Can I Do? What Can We Do?

Clue into Climate is a free downloadable student workbook that explores fundamental science concepts through the lens of climate science and the use of digital media resources. The eight-page workbook, from PBS’s KQED education network, includes vocabulary development activities and investigations followed by peer review. It also includes activities related to STEM literacy, media literacy, climate careers as well as ideas for Taking Action—all aligned to state and national science standards for grades 4–8.

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