Maryland was one of the first states to enact changes to the K-12 curriculum that require high school students to have at least one environmental literacy credit for graduation, and Frederick County Public Schools is one district that incorporates the environment into the curriculum all the way down to kindergarten, the Frederick News-Post reports.
For example, while biology teacher Sharon Steger from Middletown High School takes her students on a field trip to Doubs Meadow Park to release trout raised in her classroom, kindergarten teacher Molly Howard at Mundo Verde, a public charter school in Washington, takes hers to a national park and immerses them in its natural resources.
Instead of teaching kindergartners about global warming, the paper quoted Ms Howard as saying, “We have kids learning to love the environment. That’s really the step that’s going to get them to be worried about other global problems when they’re old enough to internalize them and start to act on them.”
The Trout in the Classroom program lets students study stream habitats—Ms Steger’s students got to jump in the Catoctin Creek—and collect data on water quality, erosion and weathering, and invasive plant species. She said students get more out of lessons if they’re doing something to apply the subject material than if they’re simply reading it out of a textbook. One 10th grader agreed: “I learn better when it’s hands-on stuff, so other people probably do, too,” the paper quoted him as saying.
As part of a high school biology class, students do more data collection, analysis, and reporting—skills that are part of the national push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)—than kindergartners do. Younger students are just naturally more curious, Ms Howard said. “If you were to ask 20 kindergarten kids what they wanted to be doing, this is what they would say,” she said.
The North American Association for Environmental Education, which will hold its 42nd annual conference in Baltimore on October 9–12, provides age-appropriate guidelines for incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. The organization’s website features a page connecting environmental education to STEM fields.