SM BEACH — As part of a state-mandated program to promote environmental literacy in California, Heal the Bay and National Geographic on Tuesday unveiled teacher resources that the groups hope will be adopted by school districts statewide.
The Santa Monica-based nonprofit and global education giant are now making environmental literacy guides that cover the topics of fresh water, ocean, energy and climate change available at no cost to all K-8 classrooms throughout California.
Heal the Bay and National Geographic Education announced the result of their partnership during Heal the Bay’s eighth annual Coastal Cleanup Education Day, a lead up event to the upcoming Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 15.
Approximately 700 elementary students from underserved communities arrived at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for environmentally-focused games, lessons and activities. These future environmental stewards — many of whom had never visited the ocean before — explored the coast, got up close and personal with the living species in the aquarium touch tanks and cleaned up the beach, organizers said.
Heal the Bay sponsored the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI), a state law enacted in 2003 that requires instructional materials for kindergarten through 12th grade to integrate various environmental principles and concepts with traditional academic standards. The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) now manages the program.
Heal the Bay contracted with National Geographic Education to create teacher guides and videos that provide third- to eighth-grade educators with background knowledge and curriculum on topics from feedback loops in global cycling systems and ocean currents to alternative energy solutions and sustainable fisheries.
“These extraordinary professional development guides fill a large void in California’s Environmental Education Initiative,” said Mark Gold, former president of Heal the Bay and the guiding force behind their creation. “Thanks to this unusual public-private partnership, there are now visually compelling, teacher-friendly, comprehensive guides on oceans, water, energy and climate change.”
The guides have been tested in classrooms in California and Washington, D.C., and were used as the basis for a successful pilot EEI professional development project with teachers in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and middle schools in the Venice family of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The pilot program was funded by Annenberg Learner, Heal the Bay and National Geographic and with the help of Google and USC Sea Grant education professionals.
As part of the One Ocean Program, Santa Monica-Malibu teachers worked collaboratively to develop environmentally focused lesson plans. They used the EEI curriculum, Google Earth, Annenberg Learner, National Geographic and other electronic resources to create a variety of hands-on learning experiences for students. Heal the Bay will continue to partner with SMMUSD in the 2012-2013 school year to support EEI implementation in the district.
“While the guides are written for upper elementary to middle school teachers, they are so accessible that I feel I could recommend them to all elementary to high school teachers, and everyone would get something out of them,” said Heal the Bay Education Director Tara Treiber. “We’re really so thrilled to be able to offer such an amazing resource to educators everywhere.”
The guides were made possible via funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Southern California Edison, Clean Harbors Environmental Services and Annenberg Learner, and present a unique investment in teachers’ ability and confidence in teaching environmental education, officials with Heal the Bay said.
The guides are available as PDF documents on the National Geographic website (natgeoed.org/eei).