Elementary Education

Future Teachers Prepare to Lead State of California Environmental Literacy

July 13, 2021

Hands holding the earth and a tree

Last semester, EED 480 Science and Social Studies students took a deep dive into the state of California’s mission to promote environmental literacy achievement by students graduating from high school in the next five years.

Following a virtual tour of the facilities and activities of the Institute for Sustainability and presentations by Natale Zappia and Sarah Johnson, the ITEP (Interdisciplinary Teacher Education Program) students learned about the many ways the Institute along with Associated Students promotes campus-wide access to reliable sources of climate science and models key ways that environmental activists can promote awareness for all.

Cartoon picture of a sick planet earth with a fever.

Professor of elementary education, Dr. Susan Belgrad, has led students in online class sessions, discussions, and small group meetings focused on climate-action resources. Her students learned how to integrate cooperative learning and the NASA 5e Framework for science in creating Project-Based Learning series on PK-6 Environmental Literacy (see Dr. Belgrad’s website). Dr. Belgrad serves as a CSU faculty associate who is contributing to the proposal to establish a joint CSU and UC state-wide Center to advance environmental literacy through the preparation of K-12 teachers.

Cartoon illustration of the carbon cycle

Dr. Belgrad’s multiple-subjects ITEP students created 14 PBLs for K-6 educators, which successfully introduced authentic climate science facts and resources for elementary school students. The PBLs were designed to connect and engage students in climate-action initiatives within their classrooms or school campuses.

A recycling bin being decorated by a child

Spanning from traditional “green” education slogans, “reduce, recycle, reuse” to teaching students that the “Earth has a fever,” the PBLs will contribute to other California educator’s work to assure that our future generation are prepared to address the climate challenges that they will face in the future.

The PBL lesson series are characterized by a “launch” lesson that engages students in the science of climate change along with the need to promote global citizenship. The continuing series of student-centered activities promote the inclusion of cooperative learning, which introduces and engages young students in acquiring social emotional learning, (SEL) and habits of mind (HOM) such as perseverance and respect for diverse perspectives.