|Environmental Education in the Schools (Peace Corps, 1993)|
|Activities, activities and more activities|
"The art of teaching is the art of assisting
-Mark Van Doren
Putting theories into practice is one of the most creative parts of teaching. By incorporating innovative and educationally sound environmental educational activities, you can develop exciting lesson plans that will motivate your students and equip them with the skills, knowledge, and motivation they need to become active, informed, and committed citizens. In this chapter, we've included a variety of environmental education activities that cater to various learning styles and make use of discovery learning, questioning, critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, values clarification, and other educational practices. Use them as models to develop strategies and techniques that work best in your teaching.
"It's important to first outline your program and lesson plan
objectives before developing activities. (See chapters 2, 3 and 4 for more about
defining goals and objectives and developing your curriculum outline.) It's also
important to create activities that fit the intellectual, emotional, and
physical levels of your students."
ADAPT FOR YOUR AUDIENCE: The activities we've provided are from a variety of sources. Many of them have been developed with a North American, European, or Australian bias. As you adapt and rewrite to fit your needs and available materials, be sensitive to cultural differences, country-specific needs, and relevance. Many of the activities will not be appropriate at all. Others will be fairly easy to adapt. And we hope that many will spark an idea in your brain to develop something new and creative that fits your needs and gets your students fired up.
TEST AND REVISE: Once you develop an activity, it really helps to test it out with students and teachers from several different schools. Ask your colleagues for suggestions and see if they'd be willing to try it with their students. Use their feedback to improve the activity and add notes that can help other educators use what you develop.
CHECK OUT THE RESOURCES: There are dozens of activity sources that can provide you with environmental education activities and give you ideas for creating your own activities. See the Bibliography for an annotated listing.
CHECK OUT YOUR ACTIVITIES: After you develop an activity, run it through this checklist to see if it's on target:
MOTIVATION: Does the activity grab the
attention of your students?
INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES: What is the objective(s) of the activity? How will you evaluate its success? How will the students apply what they learn?
CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS: Have you outlined the thinking skills appropriate for your students?
CREATIVITY: Does the activity help your students think creatively? How?
QUESTIONING: Have you outlined the questions you will ask? How many encourage higher level thinking skills?
ACTION: If you introduce an environmental problem, is there some type of concrete action the students can take to get involved? Is the presentation balanced?
RELEVANCE: Is the topic relevant to the students' lives and interests? Have the students had a say in what they are learning?
CONTEXT: How does the activity fit in with your overall teaching plan? How does it fit with what the students are learning in other classes?
SUBJECTS: Is the activity interdisciplinary and does it reinforce a variety of knowledge and skill areas?
MATERIALS: What materials are needed? Are they easy to get and assemble?
STEREOTYPES: Are there any stereotypes or biases in the materials? Are any groups under-represented? Is the language sexist?
PICK AN APPROACH: To meet your lesson-plan objectives, you need to develop or adapt an activity or a group of activities that help students understand, practice, and apply new information, as well as get them motivated to learn. From demonstrations and experiments to role plays and guided imagery, activities can take many forms. Effective and experienced teachers use a variety of teaching techniques and strategies to accommodate the varied learning styles of their students. When possible, they plan a range of activities that touch on all learning domains: the cognitive (knowledge), affective (feeling), and psychomotor (physical). They also consider the balance between teacher and student-centered activities and try to emphasize cross-curricular goals.
FINDING AND DEVELOPING EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
We've divided the activity examples in this book into the following general categories. As you will see, this is a mixed list, with some sections focusing on teaching strategies or techniques (such as group cooperation or moral dilemmas) and others on specific content or subject areas (such as urban activities or reading and writing). Although these groupings overlap, each category emphasizes an important aspect of environmental education and includes examples that can help you develop activities that work best for your situation.
"It really helps to see what others have done. I can take what
I like, add what I need, and throw out what doesn't fit."
-A Volunteer from Belize