Graduation year: 2022
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS single major
Other major (if applicable):
Minor(s) (if applicable):
Environmental education is essential as it can form environmental leaders. What kids are taught in school isn’t the same in every school, there are variations. Some learn less about environmental studies in school, some learn more, some can learn nothing. Every school doesn’t teach in the same exact way the same information, therefore there are bound to be differences in what is taught.
How accurate and current is the information taught about the environment? What type of schools teach in depth about the environment and its related problems? Which schools do not do this? Public and private schools do not always contain the same teaching requirements, therefore there can be differences in what is taught about the environment among public and private schools. Not only is there a difference between public and private, but also between public schools in high-income communities and public schools in low-income communities. While I am mainly focused on the American perspective of these topics, looking at international environmental education would also be interesting.
The effect or outcome of the levels of education that children receive in schools can also vary. If kids are taught more in depth, there is an opportunity for them to care deeply for biophysical surroundings and environmental issues. These children are also given more resources that can help them promote environmental activism. Conversely, if children are not taught as much in school, they might lack the knowledge about environmental issues that could possibly be surrounding them. Low-income communities which tend to have schools that under educate students (Checkoway & Richards-Shuster 2006), most likely struggle with teaching kids about the environment to a full extent.
Undereducation about a topic can lead to ignorance/lack of connection, or on a more positive note, can lead to kids trying to learn about topics on their own. What is key is understanding what fosters ignorance about environmental topics. Environmental racism is prevalent (Boer et al. 1997) and therefore communities of color face environmental issues in a more palpable way. Environmental issues often surround communities of color, which makes it even more important for the kids in these areas to learn about what is going on around them. In these communities, it is interesting to wonder how much outdoor time kids receive.
Outdoor time in school is important as it provides a connection between the children and the environment around them (Dowdell et al. 2011). The time spent outside can differ based on location, if a school is located in an area that is super urban and not as green, there might be a disconnect between school children and nature. As mentioned above, due to environmental justice/environmental racism lower-income communities that have schools could be vulnerable to this issue. If a school is located near a treatment, storage, disposal facility (TSDF), the children’s valuable outdoor time could be either limited and if not, it could contribute to health problems in the students.
Environmental education is necessary and important (Ballantyne et al. 1998). Their text is relevant since it talks about environmental education’s inherent value. They talk about the value of being taught accurate, current information about the environment and its problems, which does not always happen in schools. With the powerful tool of knowledge, they are better equipped to fight for environmental justice.
Another factor of environmental education is not only the quality of what is being taught to children but also the amount of time spent in schools on environmental issues. Do classes spend one period of class time learning about the environment, is there a semester or year-long class devoted specifically to environmental problems? It would be interesting to note how much time is spent on the topic in schools located in low-income communities and schools in high-income communities.
Another moving part of environmental education is the content which can be very different depending on the teacher, school and location. An environmental education scholar urges teachers to teach in a multidisciplinary way (Cole 2007) but other teachers may not have the resources and/or the time. The overall content of the course is a relevant factor to consider because it can be limited, broad, or somewhere in the middle. Environmental education is important, and it varies.
- What does environmental education look like in different communities and in different types of schools?
- How does environmental education look different in different settings?
- How do low-income communities receive environmental education differently?
- What has led to differences in what is taught to kids about the environment in schools?
- Do kids mainly tend to resort to outside learning about environmental problems, from what sources?
- Does insufficient knowledge about the environment coming from schools cause problems for students?
- What can be done to ensure kids are taught correct and current information about the environment in schools?
- How can we ensure that kids get educated well on environmental problems in schools?
SOAN 305 Environmental Sociology. In this course, I will look at how environmental issues and sociology overlap. [Spring 2021]
HIST 239 Constructing the American Landscape. In this course, I can closely study how cities were constructed and notice how it relates school systems and neighborhoods. [Fall 2021]
ED 450 Philosophy & Practice of Environmental/Ecological Education. This course is about environmental education which is a big factor of my Area of Interest. [Spring 2022]
IA 350 Social Justice in the Global Economy. In this course, I can look at social justice not just domestically, which is relevant because social justice connects to environmental justice. [Spring 2021]
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: CHEM 100, GEOL 150, ECON 260, SOAN 265, HIST 261, PHIL 215. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Revisions to date
My faculty consultant was Elizabeth Safran and she gave the suggestions below:
- March 2020: I added to my summary that my area of interest is domestically focused, for clarification. I expanded more on the content of environmental education to enrich my summary. I eliminated as many big words as possible to ensure my sentences were specific.
- Ballantyne, Roy, et al. 1998. “Students as Catalysts of Environmental Change: A Framework for Researching Intergenerational Influence through Environmental Education” Environmental Education Research, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 285., doi:10.1080/1350462980040304.
- Boer, J. Tom, et al. 1997. “Is there environmental racism? The demographics of hazardous waste in Los Angeles County.” Social science quarterly 78.4: 793-810.
- Checkoway, Barry, and Katie Richards-Schuster. 2006. “Youth participation for educational reform in low-income communities of color.” Beyond resistance: 319-332.
- Cole, Anna Gahl. 2007. “Expanding the Field: Revisiting Environmental Education Principles Through Multidisciplinary Frameworks.” The Journal of Environmental Education 38 (2): 35–45.
- Dowdell, Kellie, Tonia Gray, and Karen Malone. 2011. “Nature and its influence on children’s outdoor play.” Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education 15.2: 24-35.