Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: Adding Environmental Engagement to the School Curriculum
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It’s Easy Being Green: Adding Environmental Engagement to the School Curriculum

Several charter schools are focusing on environmental awareness to create a more engaged generation of young people.

An outdoor ampitheater at Environmental Charter School in Lawndale, CA. Many charter schools across the country are including environmental activities in their school curriculums. (Flickr/<a href= greenlagirl)" data-srcset="https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/charter_school_onpage.jpg?w=450 450w, https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/charter_school_onpage.jpg?w=450 450w, https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/charter_school_onpage.jpg?w=450 450w, https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/charter_school_onpage.jpg?w=450 450w, https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/charter_school_onpage.jpg?w=250 250w" data-sizes="auto" />
An outdoor ampitheater at Environmental Charter School in Lawndale, CA. Many charter schools across the country are including environmental activities in their school curriculums. (Flickr/ greenlagirl)

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As the school year kicks off several charter schools are shaking up the traditional curriculum with some real-world knowledge. One of these is Green Woods Charter School in Philadelphia, where the first graders in Melina Kuchinov’s class won’t just be learning to sort their adjectives from their nouns this year—they’ll be sorting through compost.

As part of a program at the school on environmental awareness and responsibility, Kuchinov’s students will turn their trash into a science experiment by allowing vegetable and fruit peels to sit for weeks at a time. After several weeks the students will observe the bugs chowing down on their compost.

There’s a concern on the part of teachers and parents that children are no longer engaged in the outdoors in the same way their parents were. Computers, video games, and spending cuts that have nixed physical education are just some of the issues that have caused a decline in the number of children that spend time outdoors. Cases of childhood diabetes, obesity, and behavioral disorders are increasing, and these could all be linked to a more sedentary lifestyle for children.

Environmental education programs are trying to reverse these trends by creating healthy children that are enthusiastic about nature. Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville, NC promotes a holistic program, much like Green Woods. Evergreen’s design principle states, “We are crew, not passengers, and are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others…” The school’s curriculum includes learning expeditions that require students to be actively engaged in nature. For example, the school hosts annual wilderness trips, and to reinforce in-class lessons, the trips are tailored for each grade. The thinking behind these schools is that the more children know about and appreciate the environment, the more likely they are to protect it.

To help get your child more engaged in the outdoors you can suggest the following ideas to your child’s teacher or try them at home for some family fun:

  • Start a compost heap at home or at school. Creating compost is an easy, fun, and educational project for young kids. To find out how to start your own heap and learn about what to use, take CAP’s quiz.
  • Take a walk in your neighborhood or on the school grounds at least twice a week and learn about the different plants and ecosystems. Roll up your sleeves and help children see how the science they’re learning in the classroom is relevant where they live.
  • Having class outside can give kids some fresh air, provide a calmer setting for learning, and maybe even help the creative juices flow.
  • Host a park clean-up and give students an opportunity to see how their hard work can make a difference in the community.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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