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Teachers from the Santa Monica-Malibu School District use laptops to better understand new teaching materials during the kick-off event announcing California's first-in-the-nation environmental curriculum and the presentation of a $50,000 check from the Sempra Energy Foundation at John Muir Middle School on Tuesday afternoon. The new curriculum will expand the environmental literacy throughout the SMMUSD. (photo by Brandon Wise)

JOHN MUIR ELEMENTARY — Students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District could soon be getting an extra dose of environmental awareness in their science, history and social studies courses, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Sempra Energy Foundation and a new curriculum developed by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The award, announced by a representative from the foundation and the state’s secretary for environmental protection, Linda Adams, at John Muir Elementary School on Tuesday, will pay for teacher training and instructional materials required to launch the Education and the Environment Initiative — a curriculum for K-12 students aimed at expanding environmental literacy.

SMMUSD is just the second district in the state to adopt the curriculum, which teachers are free to incorporate into lesson plans on a voluntary basis, CALEPA officials said.

The state legislature authorized the curriculum in 2003 under a bill sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica). CALEPA subsequently developed the plan’s specifics.

Sempra officials said the company’s goal is to educate 100 teachers in the new curriculum. The first teacher-training event took place Tuesday.

The curriculum includes 85-units of environment-based education and comes in the midst of a five-year moratorium on the adoption of new textbooks in California public schools, making EEI the only new State Board of Education approved program that will result in new instructional materials for students for several years, officials said on Tuesday.

“This landmark curriculum will expand environmental literacy at a time when protecting our environment is paramount,” Adams said. “This will help prepare today’s students to become future scientists, economists and green technology leaders.”

Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, which backed Pavley’s legislation, also spoke on Tuesday, calling his organization’s achievements in education some of its most significant.

He said the new curriculum was especially important because it came about without substantial financial backing from the state government.

“In a time when most of the talk about the future of California public school education focuses on budget cuts and teacher performance, the state has moved forward on an innovative and integrated approach to science and social science education that will result in environmentally literate students,” he said.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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