The Environment…It’s Where We Live
As Idahoans, we know our state is a special place, home to a multitude of lakes, rivers, forests, deserts, and rangeland. Our environment supports vibrant communities, farms and ranches, and beckons with recreational opportunities. Whether a rancher or city dweller, newcomer or from pioneer stock, Idahoans understand that the health and well being of their community, local economy, and nearby environment are woven together into a single cloth. Addressing today’s complex environmental issues requires strong leaders and a knowledgeable citizenry who can make responsible decisions and develop innovative solutions.
The facts are alarming. In comprehensive testing conducted by the National Math and Science Initiative in 2010, US students finished 15th in reading, 19th in math, and 14th in science in a ranking of 31 countries. Yet, of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 require significant math or science preparation to successfully compete for the job. In addition, today’s wired children get outside less: 8 to 18 year-olds use electronic devices – TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies – an average of 7.5 hours in a typical day. A 2008-2009 BMI assessment of Idaho students in all odd grades 1 through 11 found that overall, 30.5% of the Idaho school children in the sample were classified as overweight or obese. However, many Idaho students lack even a basic understanding of Idaho’s natural and cultural heritage and environmental systems and processes. Without this environmental background, they will not be prepared to fulfill 21st century jobs or care for our vital natural resources.
Research shows that math, science, social studies and language arts linked to the natural world can be effective conduits for student achievement and environmentally literacy. In one national study of 40 schools, 92% of students taught this way “academically outperformed peers in traditional programs.” Other heartening results include reduced childhood obesity, and childhood stress and attentional disorders. In addition, teachers report reduced discipline and classroom management problems and increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning. In 2010-2011 with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, IdEEA spearheaded development of Idaho’s first environmental literacy plan (ELP) with key stakeholders. The Plan envisions “The experiences and lessons learned through successful implementation of Idaho’s ELP will stay with students throughout their lifetimes, preparing them to take active roles and engage with their communities to address the complex environmental and economic challenges facing our world.”
What is Environmental Literacy?
Environmental literacy is defined as the ability to recognize essential natural, physical, and social systems and take actions to sustain them. Within educational systems, environmental education is described as a balanced, science-based, interdisciplinary approach, ensuring that students appreciate our diverse natural and cultural heritage. They should understand the interactions of living and non-living systems and think critically and imaginatively about their environment and the resources it provides. Environmental literacy involves learners actively investigating their environment, participating in challenging academic pursuits, and engaging in healthy outdoor activities.
Next Steps – Idaho Environmental Literacy Partnership
Formed in September 2011, the Idaho Environmental Literacy Partnership has met twice and is comprised of about 60 individuals representing business, government, nonprofits, city/ state/ federal agencies, formal and non-formal educators and more. Currently co-chairs Adare Evans (Idaho Department of Fish and Game) and Julie Scanlin (University of Idaho/Idaho Water Resources Research Institute and IdEEA board of directors president) are coordinating the next meeting.
How YOU Can Be Involved!
- Help build the momentum!
- Join the Idaho Environmental Literacy Partnership.
- Read the Proposed Idaho Environmental Literacy Plan.
- Share with colleagues and implement strategies.
- Support existing community EE activities that support environmental literacy.
- For more information, contact IdEEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-720-4180.