Embedding a unit on environmental education into a fourth-grade curriculum
Thesis (M.A.) Teacher Education Department
This research project integrated environmental education into the school curriculum so that elementary school students could learn about the responsible use, protection, and enjoyment of the natural environment. This project utilized four learning stations on campus as outdoor classrooms - a native plant garden, an organic vegetable garden, a vermiculture compost site, and the school ground itself - in order to ascertain the efficacy of embedding this approach in a fourth-grade science curriculum. Studentsâ€™ responses on a post-project open-ended questionnaire revealed that students were interested in appreciative interactions with the natural world as sources of joy and understanding. Students were interested in stewardship of natural resources for reasons ranging from helping the earth, helping individual plants and animals, and helping people; to dealing with issues of recycling and littering. Studentsâ€™ responses on a post-project closed-ended questionnaire indicated that: most students agree with preserving and conserving the natural world, and being stewards of the natural world; most students want to have a rewarding and positive relationship with the natural world; most students are in support of recycling and are opposed to littering. Teachersâ€™ responses on a post-project open-ended questionnaire revealed that after my project, students are more likely to engage in appreciative interactions with the natural world but only somewhat more likely to engage in stewardship of the natural world. An environmental education specialistâ€™s responses on a post-project open-ended questionnaire and my reflective teaching journal provided insights that overall, my project and my teaching were good and beneficial, in relation to my project goals. However, there is need for improvement in the area of professional development as a formal educator. Further, though appreciative interactions with the natural world were stressed in my project, stewardship of natural resources could have been stressed more.