Environmental Teaching in the Classroom

Hands

“All education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded,
students are taught that they are part of or apart from the natural world.”
David W. Orr
Earth in Mind, 1994

As part of the Arlington Public Schools’ program of studies, students develop an understanding of how humans affect the ecosystems in a variety of ways.

Social Studies

The Social Studies Department provides instruction on environment issues. Students develop fundamental understanding of society’s interplay with the natural environment on local, regional and global scales through the study of concepts related to physical, economic, cultural, urban, political, historical and environmental geography. Examples of such study include activities on global warming, the polar regions, recycling, energy consumption, nuclear dump sites, degradations of the Rainforests, “Green” initiatives, pollution in China, India’s “Green Revolution”, etc.
A variety of resources are used to teach environmental related issues including field trips, newspapers/magazines, National Geographic issues, film (The Day After Tomorrow), National Public Radio reports on climate, demographic data, CNN series on Planet in Peril, etc.
Find out more about the Social Studies curriculum

Science

Resource Science Standards for Elementary | Science Standards for Elementary | Science Standars for Secondary | Science Programs | Professional Development

Resource Standards

Kindergarten

The student will investigate and understand that materials can be reused, recycled, and conserved. Key concepts include

  1. materials and objects can be used over and over again;
  2. everyday materials can be recycled; and
  3. water and energy conservation at home and in school helps preserve resources for future use.

Grade One

The student will investigate and understand that natural resources are limited. Key concepts include

  1. identification of natural resources (plants and animals, water, air, land, minerals, forests, and soil);
  2. factors that affect air and water quality; and
  3. recycling, reusing, and reducing consumption of natural resources.

Grade Two

The student will investigate and understand that plants produce oxygen and food, are a source of useful products, and provide benefits in nature. Key concepts include

  1. important plant products (fiber, cotton, oil, spices, lumber, rubber, medicines, and paper);
  2. the availability of plant products affects the development of a geographic area; and
  3. plants provide homes and food for many animals and prevent soil from washing away.

Grade Three

The student will investigate and understand that natural events and human influences can affect the survival of species. Key concepts include

  1. the interdependency of plants and animals;
  2. the effects of human activity on the quality of air, water, and habitat;
  3. the effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms; and
  4. conservation and resource renewal.

The student will investigate and understand different sources of energy. Key concepts include

  1. the sun’s ability to produce light and heat energy;
  2. sources of energy (sunlight, water, wind);
  3. fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and wood; and
  4. renewable and nonrenewable energy resources.

Grade Four

The student will investigate and understand important Virginia natural resources. Key concepts include

  1. watershed and water resources;
  2. animals and plants;
  3. minerals, rocks, ores, and energy sources; andforests, soil, and land.

Grade Five

The student will investigate and understand public policy decisions relating to the environment. Key concepts include

  1. management of renewable resources (ware, air, soil, plant life, animal life);
  2. management of nonrenewable resources (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, mineral resources);
  3. the mitigation of land-use and environmental hazards through preventive measure; and
  4. cost/benefit tradeoffs in conservation policies
Science Standards of Learning

In addition to the “Resource” strand, the Science Standards of Learning for the elementary grades contain the following standards:

Grade Two

The student will investigate and understand that living things are part of a system. Key concepts include

  1. living organisms are interdependent with their living and nonliving surroundings; and
  2. habitats change over time due to many influences.

The student will investigate and understand that weather and seasonal changes affect plants, animals, and their surroundings. Key concepts include

  1. effects on growth and behavior of living things (migration, hibernation, camouflage, adaptation, dormancy); and
  2. weathering and erosion of the land surface.

Grade Three

The student will investigate and understand that environments support a diversity of plants and animals that share limited resources. Key concepts include

  1. water-related environments (pond, marshland, swamp, stream, river, and ocean environments);
  2. dry-land environments (desert, grassland, rain forest, and forest environments); and
  3. population and community

The student will investigate and understand the major components of soil, its origin, and importance to plants and animals including humans. Key concepts include

  1. soil provides the support and nutrients necessary for plant growth;
  2. topsoil is a natural product of subsoil and bedrock;
  3. rock, clay, silt, sand, and humus are components of soils; and
  4. soil is a natural resource and should be conserved.

The student will investigate and understand the water cycle and its relationship to life on Earth. Key concepts include

  1. the energy from the sun drives the water cycle;
  2. processes involved in the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation)
  3. water is essential for living things; and
  4. water supply and water conservation.

Grade Four

The student will investigate and understand how plants and animals in an ecosystem interact with one another and the nonliving environment. Key concepts include

  1. behavioral and structural adaptations;
  2. organization of communities
  3. flow of energy through food webs;
  4. habitats and niches;
  5. life cycles; and
  6. influence of human activity on ecosystems.

Grade Five

The student will investigate and understand characteristics of the ocean environment. Key concepts include

  1. geological characteristics (continental shelf, slope, rise);
  2. physical characteristics 9depth, salinity, major currents); and
  3. biological characteristics (ecosystems).

The student will investigate and understand how the Earth’s surface is constantly changing. Key concepts include

  1. the rock cycle including identification of rock types;
  2. Earth history and fossil evidence;
  3. the basic structure of the Earth’s interior;
  4. plate tectonics (earthquakes and volcanoes);
  5. weathering and erosion; and
  6. human impact.
Science Standards at the Secondary Level

Also, there are many Science Standards at the secondary level that directly apply to environmental concerns. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

Grade Six:

  • The student will investigate and understand basic sources of energy, their origins, transformations, and uses.
  • The student will investigate and understand the role of solar energy in driving most natural processes within the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and on the Earth’s surface.
  • The student will investigate and understand the unique properties and characteristics of water and its roles in the natural and human-made environment.
  • The student will investigate and understand the properties of air and the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • The student will investigate and understand the natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems.

Life Science

  • The student will investigate and understand the basic physical and chemical processes of photosynthesis and its importance to plant and animal life.
  • The student will investigate and understand that organisms within an ecosystem are dependent on one another and on nonliving components of the environment.
  • The student will investigate and understand that interactions exist among members of a population.
  • The student will investigate and understand interactions among populations in a biological community.
  • The student will investigate and understand how organisms adapt to biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem.
  • The student will investigate and understand that ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms are dynamic and change over time.
  • The student will investigate and understand the relationships between ecosystems dynamics and human activity.The student will investigate and understand that organisms change over time.

Physical Science

  • The student will investigate and understand changes in matter and the relationship of these changes to the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy.
  • The student will investigate and understand states and forms of energy and how energy is transferred and transformed.

Earth Science

  • The student will investigate and understand the differences between renewable and nonrenewable resources.
  • The student will investigate and understand how freshwater resources are influenced by geologic processes and the activities of humans.
  • The student will investigate and understand that oceans are complex, interactive physical, chemical, and biological systems and are subject to long and short term variations.
  • The student will investigate and understand the origin and evolution of the atmosphere and the interrelationship of geologic processes, biological processes, and human activities on its composition and dynamics.
  • The student will investigate and understand that energy transfer between the sun and the Earth and its atmosphere drives weather and climate on Earth.

Biology

  • The student will investigate and understand the chemical and biochemical principles essential for life.
  • The student will investigate and understand how populations change through time.
  • The student will investigate and understand dynamic equilibria within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Also at the secondary level are courses in Advanced Placement Biology and International Baccalaureate Biology. Additionally, students may enroll in Advanced Placement Environmental Science, a college level course designed to provide students with scientific principles, concepts and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. Or students may enroll in International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems, a rigorous study of environmental issues and problems caused by our use of the natural world.

The elementary and secondary science curriculum is available in the Science section

Science Programs Involving the Environment

Outdoor Lab

Part of the Arlington Public Schools’ curriculum is student visits to Phoebe Hall Knipling Outdoor Laboratory located in Fauquier County near Gainesville, Virginia. This 210 acre tract of land is owned by the Arlington Outdoor Education Association and made available to the school system as an outdoor science laboratory. Student groups are scheduled for day or overnight visits for specific learning activities. Programs conducted at the laboratory are related to the K-12 science curriculum as well as other curriculum areas. Students learn to observe in this natural environment, generalize about the interrelationships within the environment, and develop environmental awareness. Students learn how their decisions and behavior affect other living things. As they acquire knowledge and understanding from and about the environment, students develop competence in evaluating alternatives for using and managing resources. Approximately 9,000 Arlington Public School students visit the Outdoor Lab each year. Additional information on the Outdoor Lab may be found in the Science section

Additional information about the Arlington Outdoor Education Association is available at: http://www.outdoorlab.org/Home2.asp

Earth Force

Grade 6 and Grade 7 students participate in Earth Force, a program that engages young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future. Earth Force educators are provided a variety of professional development materials, training and support for the GREEN program. This program includes the Protecting Our Watersheds curriculum, Virginia Waterways, a guide to activities covering watersheds, water monitoring and land use in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, training to ensure participants are comfortable with the curriculum and have the necessary skills to facilitate a successful project, network of continuing support, and water monitoring equipment to include water quality test kits. More information on Earth Force is available at: http://earthforce.org/

APS Professional Development for Teachers

The focus of the Elementary Science Lead Teacher meetings for the 2009-2010 school year is Making it Matter: Creating interdisciplinary, environmental education experiences that encourage students to celebrate, explore, and enhance our local communities and natural resources. Individuals from Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Master Naturalists, Fresh AIRE, Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia Department of Forestry have been invited to present programs at each of the lead teacher meetings. In addition, five workshops scheduled for Early Release Wednesdays were scheduled. Each of the workshops has an environmental focus.
Secondary faculty and staff have participated in activities to identify unsafe, out of date and surplus chemicals in schools. Chemical managers were identified at each secondary school. As a result of this effort, the Environmental Protection Agency selected Arlington Public Schools to launch their Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign. www.epa.gov/sc3

Because of the environmental resources, provided by Arlington Public Schools and the community, teachers have been able to embed environmental education initiatives into their classrooms. Actions in Arlington Public Schools indicate support of National Science Teachers Association position statement on environmental education. Environmental education “should be a part of the school curriculum because student knowledge of environmental concepts establishes a foundation for their future understandings and actions as citizens. Central to environmental literacy is the ability of students to master critical-thinking skills that will prepare them to evaluate issues and make informed decisions regarding stewardship of the planet.”