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The Environment: Teaching and Learning

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The draft of voluntary national standards for environmental education uses the following areas as a framework:

Affective dimensions Ecological knowledge Sociopolitical knowledge Understanding of environmental issues Problem-solving skills Sense of personal responsibility Knowledge of citizen-action strategies

In addition, a team of environmental educators has completed a draft of guidelines for what should be considered high-quality environmental-education materials. Following are examples of those guidelines from the draft of "Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence":

Fairness and accuracy

  • Environmental-education materials should reflect sound theories and well-documented facts about subjects and issues.
  • Where there are differences of opinion or competing scientific explanations, the range of perspectives should be presented in a balanced way.

Action orientation

  • Materials should encourage students to examine the possible consequences of their behavior on the environment and to be willing to help resolve environmental problems and issues.
  • Materials should aim to strengthen students' sense of their ability to influence the outcome of a situation.

Instructional soundness

  • Materials should offer opportunities for different modes of teaching and learning.
  • A variety of means for assessing student progress should be included in the materials.


  • The overall structure (purpose, direction, and logic of presentation) should be clear to teachers and students.
  • Materials should have a life span that extends beyond one use.
  • If intended for in-school use, environmental-education materials should fit easily within state or local standards or curricula.


  • Environmental concepts should be set in a context that includes social as well as ecological aspects.
  • Environmental issues should be explored using a variety of scales, as appropriate--for example, short-term to long-term time spans, localized global effects, and local to international community levels.

Emphasis on skills building

  • Students should learn to arrive at their own conclusions about what should be done, rather than being taught that a certain course of action is best.

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