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California State Standards and The Lack of Environmental Education

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After having read through the California state standards for education, it has become clear to me the lack of environmental education that goes into most science curriculums in California, and the rest of the country for that matter. California is one of if not the most progressive state in the country, and reference that is made toward the environment within the science standards is few and far between.There is reference made to the environment in the California state standard book about six times, and these references are made in broad strokes, not detailing anything in particular about what they hope for children to gain some level of knowledge about the environment.Given the age we live in, where the environment is struggling more than ever, this is not an acceptable truth that should exist in the education of our children.

With that being said, the curriculum that we as a group of college students have designed certainly does stray far from what is detailed in the standards for the state. Although, as we have learned through our readings in the book Failure of Environmental Education, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but rather shows our more progressive and modern approach to the way that we should go about educating children about science and its relationship to the environment.

Science, unlike history or math does not hold a fixed position in time, and is not set in stone. We are constantly learning more and more about the world around us through all fields of science, and the way that we think about the world is in turn affected by our perceptions that have been informed by what we learn through these scientific practices. Scientific practices are nowadays inherently limited by the technology that we have available to us that enable us to perform experiments.Simply put, these experiments alongside observation are what allow us to unveil the mysteries that the world has presented us with.

It is how the Greeks discovered the world is round, it is how we flew to the moon, and it is how we created the large hadron collider, and we will continue to build on these same ideas to create another scientific revolution in the future.Each of these accomplishments did not come out of the blue, but they were rather the successful implementation of a compilation years of scientific research and testing, building on other scientific accomplishments and discoveries that happened preceding the events.

This is preciselythe problem with the California state standards as they currently exist.In their current form, they were written in 1998, and have only been reprinted since that time, without any real changes being made.That is nearly two decades worth of scientific advancement and discovery that has been left out of the requirements in the state curriculum.Science heavily depends on using prior knowledge and technology to inform contemporary hypothesis, and without using this information, we are left with obsolete, outdated information.

In this vein, let us for a moment transport ourselves back to the time when the California state standards were last changed–1998. The titanic won an Oscar award, cell phones were some strange bastardization between bricks and walkie-talkies, and a gallon of gas cost around a dollar and ten cents.To say the very least, times were different.At this time, the importance being placed on the environment was considerably less than it is today. This is in part because of our lack of knowledge about the environment, but it is also in large part because people simply didn’t care as much as they do today.

It’s true that we were still experiencing the very same environmental crisis as we were at that time, but it simply does not register as much with the public as much as it does when gas prices rise to five dollars a gallon.My parents bought a hybrid car in 2001, and the dealer had to practically beg them to take it off his hands, because nobody cared about saving gas money or cut down on their emissions in a time when it wasn’t really affecting them. As we have learned from Saylan and Blumstein, our education system is based around the values we as a country put on the desire to be monetarily lucrative.

My parents were not alone in their experience buying a hybrid during that time. Well, depending on how you look at it, perhaps they were. A mere twenty thousand hybrid cars sold, which makes up .14% of the market share of cars sold in 2001. Compare that to 2013, where nearly five hundred thousand electric cars were sold, making up more than 3% of car sales. Hybrids were not even for sale in the states in 1998.Although this doesn’t have to do with education specifically, it still paints a good overarching picture of the United States’ attitude toward environmentally favorable practices through the lens of electric vehicles. It reflects our relatively recent interest in reducing our carbon footprints, and might help contextualizethe reasons behind why environmental science is so glaringly absent from the California state standards.

Our goal as an independent study, and as a group is to try to begin to fill in the gaps of environmental science that are missing from the outdated California state standards. By teaching these lessons in conjunction with activities that are fun and engaging, we hope that students will not only learn something valuable from what we are teaching them, but will also enjoy and be inspired by them.Although the state standards do not directly address environmental issues, they nonetheless provide useful information that certainly helps students be informed when learning about the environment.

Much of what the standards outline involve aspects that can be viewed within the framework of the environment. In that way we are reinforcing what the children are already learning in their normal science classes but with an environmental spin on them. This will not only help the students critically think about scientific concepts like the water cycle, but they will also be able to apply what they have learned into a more easily accessible way, as it pertains to their everyday lives.

In this day and age it is important to be an interdisciplinary learner, as everything becomes more and more intertwined with one another. We believe that our curriculum does just that—ties together multiple concepts into one, creating a coherent lesson plan that exposes students to science in a way that they may have not previously experienced. Even though the California state standards are less than ideal when it comes to the environment, we are still able to provide to Sultana some degree of reinforcement towards the California state standards by tying together the environment to other forms of science, highlighting how science is not simply separated, but rather how the different practices of science intersect in the real world.

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California State Standards and the Lack of Environmental Education. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 28, 2021, from
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