Fostering Environmental Awareness in Science Classes


By Marie Daniels

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Fostering Environmental Awareness in Science Classes

“Environmental education provides important opportunities for students to become engaged in real world issues that transcend classroom walls. They can see the relevance of their classroom studies to the complex environmental issues confronting our planet and they can acquire the skills they’ll need to be creative problem solvers and powerful advocates.” — Ms. Campbell, California’s Superintendent of San Mateo County Schools

Environmental Stewardship is connected to many of the topics that are covered in science classes and the Next Generation Science Standards require that science classes are taught through an environmental lens. Teachers who wish to develop stewardship in their students need information on how to adjust the activities they are already doing to foster a sense of stewardship. Science teachers are also under pressure to adopt a more project based approach and projects are an ideal way to support stewardship and activism in students.

Learning Outcomes

  • Create lessons that connect students with outdoor places.
  • Identify projects that empower and engage students in science curriculum
  • Apply NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts
  • Create a learning partnership with an outside organization
  • Lead meaningful discussions around environmental media

Needs Assessment

• Based on an informal survey of the K-8th teachers at my school on their attitudes towards environmental stewardship as a goal of modern education, most teachers feel that environmental education is important, but do not feel that they have the necessary skills to foster stewardship.

• Organizations such as the DEC and Teaching in the Hudson Valley have determined that there is a need to educate classroom teachers on environmental issues and environmental stewardship. Attendance at these conferences indicates that there is an interest in fostering environmental stewardship among teachers in the local region.

• Traditional methods of environmental education have been shown to have a limited impact on student’s environmental attitudes and a minimal to negligible impact on student’s stewardship behaviors. (Ferriera, 2011)

• Hands on experiences with nature have been shown to have a positive impact on both environmental attitudes and stewardship behaviors (McClain, Vandermaas-Peeler, 2016)

Source: Ferreira, S. (2012). Moulding urban children towards environmental stewardship: the Table Mountain National Park experience. Environmental Education Research, 18(2), 251-270. McClain, C., & Vandermaas-Peeler, M. (2016). Outdoor explorations with preschoolers: An observational study of young children’s developing relationship with the natural world. International Journal of Early Childhood, 4(1), 38.

Analysis of the Learner and Context


The primary audience will be teachers who are already motivated to foster environmental stewardship in their students but need more guidance on how to do this. This course will be applicable to teachers at all grade levels.

  • Teachers who teach science as a specialty.
  • General education teachers who teach science.
  • Teachers who would like to run an environmental club.


This course will be offered entirely online. Participants should be prepared to discuss ideas in online forums and critique the work of their peers.

Performance Objectives

  • Identify opportunities to foster environmental stewardship
  • Connect students to the larger world
  • Connect stewardship to the curriculum

Task Analysis/Prerequisites

  • Basic computing skills ie: navigating websites, downloading and uploading files
  • Lesson planning skills ie: formulating learning objectives, linking activities to objectives
  • Familiarity with the Next Generation Science Standards
  • Familiarity with Project Based Learning

Curriculum Map

Please follow the link below to my Curriculum Map.

References and Resources

Blair, D. (2009). The child in the garden: An evaluative review of the benefits of school gardening. The Journal of Environmental Education, 40(2), 15-38.

Ryan RL, Kaplan R, Grese RE. 2001. Predicting volunteer commitment in environmental stewardship programs. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 44(5): 629–658 Chawla, L., & Cushing, D. F. (2007). Education for strategic environmental behavior. Environmental Education Research, 13(4), 437-452..