We partnered with the Environmental Education Association of Oregon and the Portland Metro STEM Partnership to create an interactive Prezi presentation that briefly explains the natural connection between environmental and STEM education, or E-STEM. Check it out below or download the Prezi app for iPad or iPhone if you are currently using one of those devices.

You can read most of the script of the presentation below, but we highly recommend you explore the multimedia content, too!

E-STEM engages students and develops skills for a sustainable, productive society. E-STEM promotes the development of systems-thinking skills that employers want and our society needs to thrive.

Example Strategies

Opportunities for incorporating E-STEM abound both in and out of school. E-STEM gives students the tools to build sustainable, informed communities that are economically, environmentally, and socially sound.

Data Collection and Analysis

Programs such as StreamWebs support students and teachers in monitoring local streams and analyzing collected data, empowering them to improve water quality through their research while meeting critical science and math standards.

Campus Learning

Schools and school yards are ripe with opportunities for exploration and inquiry. All grades at Joseph Gale Elementary School in Forest Grove use campus features such as gardens and the solar energy system to drive learning. For example, first graders designed and tested rain gauges, then analyzed their results and improved their designs using engineering practices.

Students at Kennedy High School in Cottage Grove are reinforcing math lessons through hands-on problem solving to enhance school gardens, environmental service learning projects, and the livability of their community. Attendance has improved 91% since adopting this environmental lens for learning through which students develop a wide range of STEM skills.

Hood River Middle School students meet standards through the exploration of permaculture design principles, which examine the links between living and nonliving systems. School gardens and the greenhouse complex provide focal points for STEM investigations, and students harvest the food they produce for School Feasts, as well as their own weekly Farmer’s Market. In the process they gain valuable experience while learning first-hand about their local economy. Students also participate in Outdoor School, and build on those experiences through field research with partners such as the US Forest Service.

Need for Environmental and STEM Education

E-STEM creates the real-world context in which to develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills that every citizen needs in the 21st Century.It prepares students for today’s jobs and those of the future, strengthening our economy, conserving resources, and informing wise decision making in the face of complex choices. Universal access to these opportunities is essential for a just, sustainable society.

STEM and Our Planet

Our long-term prosperity depends on students choosing to enter STEM fields that are heavily influenced by environmental education.For example,environmental science jobs are expected to grow 25% by 2016, outpacing all other science jobs, and green chemistry alone is expected to grow 35-fold to become a 100 billion dollar industry by the year 2020.

E-STEM helps students understand concepts and investigate real issues. It prepares them to be engaged citizens who evaluate multiple perspectives and make informed decisions.But just as one would not expect kids to learn how to read by dropping them off at the library, we cannot expect them to become environmentally literate by simply taking them outside.

Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan

In 2009, the No Oregon Child Left Inside Act directed Oregon to create an Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) as part of a nationwide movement supported by over 50 million Americans. The Plan seeks to inspire deep environmental understanding in all students.

Environmental Literacy Strands

The ELP includes 5 interconnected Strands that deal with students’ understanding of the system dynamics of humans and the environment:

  • Systems thinking
  • Physical, living and human systems
  • Interconnectedness of people and the environment
  • Personal and civic responsibility
  • Investigate, plan and create a sustainable future

Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards are a natural fit with the Environmental Literacy Plan. All emphasize development of practices and skills, providing greater flexibility to explore content areas deeply in the context of addressing real-world problems. Environmental education allows teachers to utilize key teaching practices that are tied to student interest and success.

The alignment of the Plan to the standards gives teachers a wealth of opportunities to use E-STEM to really engage students AND address the standards. For example, one strand of the Plan involves understanding of the interconnectedness of people and the environment. This aligns with Next Generation Science Standards concerned with ecosystem interactions, energy, and dynamics.

Benefits of E-STEM

E-STEM engages students in the real world, employing the most effective strategies to help us meet rigorous standards. And it cultivates young thinkers to build sustainable communities.

Thank you for helping us to implement the Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan as part of a growing E-STEM movement and essential complement to the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Download the plan from the Environmental Education Association of Oregon’s website at EEAO.org

References and Resources

Here are links to more information and ideas for helping students participate in meaningful E-STEM experiences:

Archie, M. (2003). Advancing Education through Environmental Literacy. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Download at: http://repositories.tdl.org/tamug-ir/handle/1969.3/27975

Bell, J., Wilson, J., and Liu, G.. Neighborhood Greenness and 2-year Changes in Body Mass Index of Children and Youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008;35(6):547-553. Download at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000844

The National Education and Environment Partnership. (2002). Environmental Education and Educational Achievement: Promising Programs and Resources. Washington, DC: National Environmental Education and Training Foundation. Download at: http://www.neefusa.org/pdf/prom-programs.pdf

The National Environmental Education Foundation. (2000, Sep). Environment-Based Education: Creating High Performance Schools and Students. Washington, DC: National Environmental Education Foundation. Abstract at: http://www.neefusa.org/pdf/NEETF8400.pdf

Ritz, Stephen. (2012). A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx. TED.com. http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_ritz_a_teacher_growing_green_in_the_south_bronx.html

Taylor, A. & Kuo, F. Children with Attention Deficits Concentrate Better after Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2008;12(5):402-409. Abstract at: http://jad.sagepub.com/content/12/5/402

More Research, Case Studies, and Ideas at: