Looking Forward

The State of California, known throughout the world for its natural beauty, has long been a leader in the movement to conserve and protect the natural environment. Recognizing that more can and should be done to understand our relationship with the environment, the California Legislature and many partners created the California Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI). As a result, California is leading the nation in increasing environmental literacy by bringing EEI, an environment-based curriculum, to potentially millions of students in California. EEI is serving as a model for the rest of the nation and even beyond.

“I love teaching EEI in my classroom! I see it leading students toward being better informed decision makers, with the skills to look at the “big picture” and see long-term consequences of short-term decisions.”

—Ms. Woods, Galt Joint Union Elementary School District

A Vision to Increase Environmental Literacy

John Muir captured why education about the environment is crucial when he famously said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Imagine the possibilities if that understanding began for students as early as kindergarten and continued through high school. With the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI), the vision of increasing environmental literacy is becoming a reality.

The EEI Curriculum

The EEI, an unprecedented 2003 California law, mandated the creation of a K–12 curriculum that teaches students about their relationship with the environment while teaching select academic standards in Science, History-Social Science, and English Language Arts. The EEI Curriculum is easy for teachers to incorporate because they can use it instead of portions of their current textbooks. It was approved by the State Board of Education in 2010, so educators know that, in addition to engaging students, the EEI Curriculum is academically sound.

The EEI Curriculum focuses on environmental topics that affect students in their daily lives such as air, water, and energy. In addition, the EEI Curriculum helps students answer “why should I care?” as it fosters understanding of topics of broad concern, such as global climate change and resource conservation. Using the EEI Curriculum, students are learning about the complicated decision-making process related to the distribution of California’s water, not just that it is wise to turn off the tap. These materials are helping students better understand how they influence the environment and how the environment influences them. As a result of experiencing EEI, students are better informed when they make choices that affect their own health and the future of a healthy environment. Most importantly, the EEI Curriculum encourages critical thinking that lets students reach their own conclusions rather than advocating a particular agenda.

EEI Partners

EEI is made possible by an active public/private partnership managed by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA). The California Department of Education, a long-term partner in the development of the EEI Curriculum, continues to support its implementation throughout California schools. The EEI has received developmental support from well-respected organizations such as the National Geographic Society and Heal the Bay, and continues to receive support for implementation from corporations, individuals, and foundations, such as the Annenberg Foundation/Annenberg Learner and the Sempra Energy Foundation.

The EEI Today

After several years of development, extensive field-testing and approval by the State Board of Education, the EEI Curriculum is now in use in many California classrooms. Teachers and school administrators are united in their excitement about the EEI Curriculum.

Educators and students are not the only ones impressed with this new curriculum. EEI has also generated tremendous interest from parents and businesses who see the EEI Curriculum as a useful tool for preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders. These businesses recognize that economic prosperity and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive, but must go hand-in-hand. The EEI Curriculum prepares students to make informed decisions about California’s future.

“Teaching EEI to my 10th graders is an amazing experience. I have never seen the engagement level go up as much as it does with EEI.”

—Ms. Ward, Riverside Unified School District

The Future of EEI

The EEI Curriculum has the potential to increase environmental literacy through implementation of the EEI Curriculum with California’s 6.2 million students and more than 150,000 teachers. While the curriculum is available free online, many teachers are requesting the EEI Curriculum in printed form, especially for their students in the elementary grades. In addition, many schools are not yet equipped to provide their students with adequate digital access to the EEI Curriculum. With California’s deepening financial crisis, and school districts facing increasing budget cuts, there is no question that the EEI will require support from private sources to help meet its funding needs for teacher training, program evaluation, outreach, and recruitment, and curriculum distribution. Consequently, we have launched a fundraising campaign to provide every California school district with the opportunity to obtain and implement the EEI Curriculum in their classrooms by 2014. You can join the businesses, nonprofits, and individuals who recognize the value of increasing environmental literacy through the EEI Curriculum by partnering with Cal/EPA.

Help Bring the EEI Curriculum into California Classrooms

If you are interested in supporting this exciting curriculum, here are ways to get involved:

  • Tell school teachers and school administrators about the EEI Curriculum and encourage them to use it in their classrooms.
  • Partner with Cal/EPA to provide financial support for EEI implementation.
  • Learn how you can invest in the EEI and build awareness in your local community at www.CaliforniaEEI.org.

 

Contact Us: EEI@calepa.ca.gov or call (916) 341-6769 for further information.
Education and the Environment Initiative, http://www.calepa.ca.gov/Education/EEI/
Last updated: June 25, 2012
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