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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Professional development around environmental education

Professional development around environmental education

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Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to getting started with "greening" the curriculum is where to begin. Environmental education really can be a wonderful tool to bridge the disciplines and provide an engaging learning experience for students, but teachers may need support in feeling as though they have the foundation required to grow and learn with their students. Many teachers have found the online professional development courses provided by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to be quite useful. Upcoming courses include "Foundations of Environmental Education" and "Making EE Relevant for Culturally Diverse Audiences". High school teachers can take these courses for free with a Classroom Earth Professional Development Grant. Applications are due soon (July 23), and can be accessed at: http://classroomearth.org/professional-development-grant-2010.

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Laurie Schoeman's picture
Laurie Schoeman
Director of NY Sun Works

New York City has a great online resource for teachers to scroll through offering and select Professional Development (PD) courses through the ASPDP's website (After School Professional Development Program). The ASPDP is the accrediting branch of the Department of Education for NYC. Some of these PD courses are beginning to be hosted at "green" spaces, such as the Queens Botanical Garden.

Our organization has proposed a Professional Development course that will show teachers how to incorporate more education on sustainability into their classrooms. Hopefully we will be approved by the ASPDP (After School Professional Development Program here in NYC).

I hope that other organizations may work with Department of Education teachers in order to implement similar teacher curricula.

An important aspect to note is that these accrediting organizations often have certain priorities for approval. For example, in NYC, there is a heavy focus a few of "Danielson's Framework" Competencies, as well as certain "Children First" Concepts.

Thus, in order to be successful in proposing an environmental PD curriculum, the organizer must focus on fitting it into the accrediting organization's priorities.

In NYC, the most recent focus of the ASPDP are the following for course content:

-Data Driven - Differentiated Instruction
-Improving learning outcomes for high need populations- Blacks, Hispanics, English Language Learners, Special Education, (Closing the Achievement Gap)
-Improving Middle Schools

For Instructional Strategies:
Delivery that embeds or models...
-Strategies for using data
-Strategies for setting goals
-Strategies for differentiating instruction
-Strategies for monitoring instruction
-Strategies for assessing students
-Use of Teacher Competencies
-Technology (linked to classroom practice)

As you can see, reaching under-served populations, differentiated methods of instruction, and providing assessment tools are a clear priority.

And so we must remember to link our environmental education priorities with those of the Department of Education in order to enhance the PD opportunities available to teachers in the future.

Jessica, do you know of any other organizations that have applied to have their PD courses certified by an accrediting branch of the Department of Education? Hopefully we will be seeing more of these courses available to teachers soon!

Jennifer Thurston's picture
Jennifer Thurston
Executive Director Weaselskin Institute, Owner Weaselskin Equestrian Center

Weaselskin Institute is a charitable non-profit educational and scientific research organization with its mission to foster programs for teachers, counselors, coaches and graduate students on the ideals ensuing from
Wildlife habitat and archaeological area conservation
Equine experiential education
Athletic and healthy lifestyle promotion and coaching enrichment
Sustainable agriculture and forest product development
Energy research on renewable resources
Local social and cultural collaboration
Research of the economic and cultural value in the areas of the institute's interest shall be encouraged and established. Dissemination of the knowledge gained through the research will be done at local, regional and national levels. Weaselskin Institute will accomplish its goals by coordinating the facilities for, and organization of:
* Seminars, in the areas of the institute's interests, that are open to all regional educational institutions as well as independent teacher organizations
* Professional assistance for members research projects.
* Public fundraising events, for member non-profits that share the same value in improving educational systems and opportunities for future generations

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