|Environmental Education in the Schools (Peace Corps, 1993)|
|5. Sample environmental education curriculum frameworks|
In this section, we've included two sample environmental
education curriculum frameworks. Each provides an outline of important concepts
and topic areas for an environmental education program. The first is from "A
Guide to Curriculum Planning in Environmental Education" by Dave Engleson
(Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1987), pages 14-22. The second
example is from the "Sourcebook in Environmental Education for Secondary School
Teachers" by R.C. Sharma and Merle C. Tan (Unesco Principal Regional Office for
Asia and the Pacific, 1990), pages 174-180. For more about curriculum
development, see Chapter 5.
SAMPLE CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK FOR WISCONSIN
There are fundamental environmental principles that provide a content dimension for a K-12 environmental education program. Presented in the outline form that follows, they provide an organized view of what an environmentally literate citizen should know about Earth's environments and how they function. The principles outlined below are dealt with in much greater detail in the environmental curriculum development monographs, companion volumes to this guide Each of the monographs deals with a single element of Earth's environment or a serious threat to its operation.
This outline is based on that found in Fundamentals of Environmental Education, a 1976 report of the Subcommittee on Environmental Education, Federal Interagency Committee on Education.
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES DEALING WITH EARTH'S ENVIRONMENT
A. Earth's environment operates as a system supported by conditions that are functions of Earth's structure and place in the solar system.
1. Solar energy is the primary source of energy for all physical, chemical, and biochemical cycles and other processes occurring on Earth.
2. Nuclear processes, geothermal sources, tidal movements, and gravity are secondary sources.
3. Earth is in a state of overall energy balance, absorbing energy from the sun and radiating it into place.
4. Absorption and distribution of solar energy result in the movement of global air masses, the hydrologic cycle, and ocean currents, giving raise to Earth's prevailing weather and climates and providing conditions essential to life on Earth.
B. Earth's environment is a complex, interrelated, interactive, dynamic, constantly changing macrosystem called the ecosphere.
1. The ecosphere is composed of a mosaic of interacting systems called ecosystems.a. An ecosystem is a recognizable, homogenous unit existing at a particular point in space and time, consisting of three groups of components: (1) physical (sun's energy, climate, rocks, water); (2) life forms (including humans); and (3) interactions between living and non living components (competition, erosion, decomposition).
b. The characteristics of an ecosystem, derived from the interaction of its components, differ from the characteristics of individual components and can be understood only when studied as a complete functioning unit.
c. Characteristics of a species of organism depend upon interactions of its generic composition with the environment.
d. Ecosystem processes are limited by physiochemical attributes (energy, materials, space, time) and the inherited characteristics of organisms.
e. These characteristics adapt a population of an organism to function in a particular role known as a niche. Populations of organisms are interdependent with one another and with their physical environment.
f. Both ecosystems and species of organisms vary in their ecological amplitude, that is, their parameters and capacities to interact with other components of the ecosystem, and with other ecosystems.
"When we try to pick out something by itself, we find it
hitched to everything else in the universe."
2. The ecosphere has and is undergoing continuous change.
a. Environmental factors, such as climate, topography, geologic processes, and the distribution of oceans and continents, have changed throughout Earth's history.
b. Organisms have changed greatly through many small consecutive modifications of their genetic composition, thus adapting to a changing environment. Organisms that have failed to adapt have become extinct.
c. New ecosystems are created as organisms invade formerly lifeless water or bare mineral substrates (such as rock), or as existing ecosystems are modified.* New combinations of organisms and environments produce new ecosystems.
* Interactions of living and non living components change the character of an ecosystem.
* Natural and human processes, for example, fires, landslides, earthquakes and urbanization, alter ecosystems in varying degrees.
* Ecosystems have various degrees of resiliency to alteration, giving them varying capacities and rates of recovery from alteration.
* Ecosystems can be reduced to near or actual extinction by the removal or addition of components and the change of processes, but unless the area is rendered toxic to all life for extended periods, a new ecosystem subsequently will develop.
d. As ecosystems persist and mature over time, there is a tendency toward an increase in the diversity of organisms.* Mature ecosystems have a steady-state character even though individual organisms and species arrive, die, or depart, and even though particular kinds of organisms may not always be present.
* Mature ecosystems tend to be very stable, with more resilience to physical, biological, economic, and social variations than developing systems.
e. Niches become more specialized as ecosystems mature.* Niche specialization occurs when ecosystem changes interact with organism changes.
* Niches can be expanded if species learn new behaviors, thus enabling more types of organisms to live in an ecosystem and further modify its character.
f. Some ecosystem characteristics are influenced strongly by the origin and history of the ecosystem.
3. Energy and materials required for life pass into or are found in the ecosphere, and are components of each ecosystem.
a. Ecosystem energy comes originally and primarily from the sun; materials come from components of the ecosphere.
b. Green plants, through photosynthesis, use solar energy to convert water, carbon dioxide, and small amounts of minerals into high energy organic compounds that power all life processes.* The process of respiration releases this energy in other organisms.
* The processes of photosynthesis and respiration are limited to a narrow range of temperatures, moisture, and chemical conditions, and by the genetic composition of organisms.
c. Materials are cycled and recycled through ecosystems via pathways known as food webs. In food webs materials pass through plants, through herbivores, and through carnivores. At any of these three levels, decay organisms may reduce organic matter to inorganic, thus completing the cycle.
d. Some energy moves through physical and chemical components of ecosystems; the rest through food webs.* Energy conversions are never 100 percent efficient, so energy is constantly dissipated from the system, resulting in a deficit.
* A constant infusion of energy from the sun is required for organisms and ecosystems to live and to grow.
* Some energy is stored in organic materials and is available for future use,
e. Most natural ecosystems are adapted to operate on the energy and materials directly available to them. These resources are renewable through recycling.* In natural ecosystems the rates of consumption and renewal are balanced.
* In ecosystems containing primitive human social groups, these rates are also balanced.
* In ecosystems containing modern human social groups, there is a demand for heavy subsidization of energy and materials.
4. Each ecosystem of the ecosphere contains a number of species populations, the size and stability of which vary, depending on biotic and abiotic changes in the system.
a. A population introduced into an ecosystem to which it is adapted shows a typically s-shaped pattern of growth as births exceed deaths, a leveling off as the rates equalize, and a decline as the death rate exceeds the birth rate.
b. Population, birth, and death rates are influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic limiting factors.* Intrinsic factors are genetic and include reproductive capacity, innate behavior, food requirements, and resiliency.
* Extrinsic factors are environmental and include chemical factors, such as nutrients and toxins; physical factors, such as temperature and humidity; and factors related to interactions with its own and other populations, such as competition, predation, parasitism. Population density affects all extrinsic relationships.
* The modern human birth rate is affected primarily by socio-cultural means, for example, delay in marriage, contraception, abortion; the death rate by technology, for example, medical science, sanitation, dietary improvement. The net result of recent changes in both rates has been a substantial increase in the size and growth rate of Earth's human population.
c. Population size in an ecosystem will vary over time with changes in physio-chemical factors and with biological interactions, thus defining a carrying capacity of the ecosystem for a population under a given set of conditions. Within finite limits, technology can increase an ecosystem's carrying capacity.
d. Spatial arrangements and total numbers of individuals in a population are equally important in ecosystem functioning.
e. Population distribution is controlled by ecological amplitude, environmental barriers to dispersal, and history.
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES DEALING WITH HUMANS AS ECOSYSTEM COMPONENTS
A. Humans use ecosystems to satisfy basic needs and desires.
1. Basic biological needs that must be met for humans to live and grow include habitable climate, energy, materials, rest and exercise, other humans for reproduction, and protection against environmental stresses.
2. Humans cannot grow and completely develop mentally unless essential psychological and social needs and desires are met. These include security, love, esteem, self-fulfillment, social interaction, health, comfort, material goods, and religious experiences.
3. Each human culture has its own perceived needs and desires that make different demands and impacts on ecosystems. In times of stress many of these needs and desires can be adjusted.a. Culturally specific perceived needs include:* preservation of land, ecosystems and species, and the conservation of materials and energy;
* satisfaction of desires for status and for exotic materials and experiences;
* economies of scale concentrating human activities that result in major ecosystem changes;
* planned obsolescence of manufactured goods; and
* dietary customs, family size, and work attitudes.
b. Universal human desire for increasing amounts of material goods is expressed differently in different cultures. The human impact on ecosystems increases as these desires are satisfied.
c. Value systems are an important factor in determining the kind and extent of a society's impact on ecosystems.
d. Increasing the consumption of energy and materials often leads to deleterious impacts on ecosystems such as:* increased CO2 and heat in the atmosphere, resulting in heat islands over cities;
* changes in the reflective power of Earth;
* introduction of synthetic substances that may be toxic, mutagenic, or carcinogenic.
e. Concentration of humans in built environments intensifies the deleterious effects of humans on ecosystems.
"The environment is not only more complex than we think; it is
more complex than we can
B. Humans are an all-pervasive species in the ecosphere and thus exert a special ecological dominance.
1. Human domination results from various factors.a. Intellectual capacities permit the development of* technology, giving unique control over energy flow, food and goods production, disease, and other factors that could limit human populations;
* unique institutional and technological control over other populations in ecosystems such as the domestication of species, suppression of undesirable species, and the encouragement of desirable species.
b. Biological and cultural adaptation to a wide range of environmental conditions may result in either positive or negative effects.
c. Sheer population size results in domination.
d. Specialization and diversity in the division of labor allows for domination.
2. Human tendencies to form and function in social and corporate groups and institutions promote development of human habitats that create unique concentrated demands on ecosystems and further increase human effects on ecosystems.a. These effects are intensified by the concentration of humans in small areas.
b. The effects of human settlements on a metropolitan scale on ecosystems rival those of mountains, glaciers, droughts, and floods.
3. Recent rapid increases in human populations and technological capabilities have accelerated ecosystem changes until some are potentially irreversible.
4. Human aesthetic, ethical, moral, and spiritual values may reinforce or conflict with harmonious relationships within ecosystems.
C. Ecosystems affect humans
1. Humans and all their products function in an ecosystem framework.a. Built environments radically transform human societies and cultures.
b. Past ecosystem processes and events have produced major biological and cultural differences in human populations.
2. Ecosphere changes due to increasing human population and technology have both short and long term effects.a. Short term effects include changes in:* birth and death rates;
* biological fitness of human populations as measured by growth rates, disease patterns, nutritional levels, and aging
* use of nonrenewable material and stored energy resources; and
* functional capacities of individuals and populations, for example, mental productivity and attitude.
b. Long term effects include changes in:* genes and chromosomes and their evolutionary consequences;
* elimination or introduction of selection pressures;
* ecosystems due to evolution of component populations;
* health and life cycles;
* global climate;
* reserves of nonrenewable and renewable resources; and culture.
3. The built environment and its psychological milieu have a powerful effect on humans. Information transfer by verbal communication and learned behavior operates on humans in a parallel and synergistic manner in much the same way as do physical and chemical components of ecosystems.
D. Complex interactions among humans and other ecosystem components occur continuously.
1. Humans' perceptions of their needs, their impacts on ecosystems, and ecosystem impacts on them reflect the cultural and individual values, goals skills, insights, and capabilities of the individuals, groups, institutions, and nations involved.
2. Relationships among components of ecosystems are reciprocal, ranging from mutually beneficial to unidirectionally destructive.
3. Feedback mechanisms of different kinds, for example, physical. chemical, social, and behavioral, ranging from rudimentary to highly sophisticated, govern relationships among and within components of ecosystems.
4. Human activities often have synergistic effects on ecosystems and vice versa.
5. Human activities affect ecosystem maintenance and managementa. Potentially positive activities of humans within ecosystems include:* domesticating plants and animals;
* reducing of disease and mortality;
* constructing and controlling space for living, working, manufacture, storage, recreation, and transportation;
* preserving genetic stocks of non domesticated organisms and preservation of specific ecosystems;
* appreciating ecosystems and their components;
* developing human law and property rights;
* reducing human populations under certain social-cultural conditions; and
* elaborating functional roles for humans, which increases diversity of ecosystems.
b. Potentially destructive activities of humans within ecosystems include:* bringing on large scale events (such as oil slicks, floods, atmospheric changes) that warn of imbalances between human activities and ecosystem functions;
* reducing the number of individuals in a species; interrupting the continuity of reducing the area of ecosystem types and reducing the average species diversity for a given ecosystem type;
* increasing environmentally-related human health problems, such as pollution-induced disease, noise-induced deafness;
deliberately or inadvertently destroying or modifying habitats;
* creating and concentrating pollutants;
* dissipating energy and producing pollutants at high rates in urban areas;
* depleting relatively concentrated sources of raw materials.
"If human beings were to disappear from earth, the other
species of plants and animals would be largely unaffected; if the other plants
and animals were to disappear, however, human beings would disappear as
METHODS FOR HARMONIZING HUMAN ACTIVITIES WITH ECOSYSTEM PROCESSES TO ACHIEVE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
A. Methods by which human activities, local through global, are harmonized with ecosystem processes are complex, and outcomes are not always predictable.
1. Barriers to harmony include:* inevitable, continuing, and largely unmanageable effects of ecosystem changes on human biology and culture;
* incomplete or unavailable detailed knowledge needed to make environmental predictions;
* lack of uniformly dependable social-political processes for responsible decision making.
2. Harmony can be pursued through:* formal and non formal education of the public;
* practice of various art forms to develop human sensitivity to and appreciation of environmental quality;
* encouragement of corrective actions by individuals, business and industry, citizen organizations, and government agencies;
* voluntary adoption and implementation of policies and standards;
* establishment of formal policies, guidelines, and standards;
* use of economic and social incentives;
* enforcement of policies, guidelines, and standards.
3. Institutions, processes, and attitudes for promoting harmony include* education and communication;
* religious, aesthetic, ethical and moral influences; science and technology;
* civic and social institutions;
* government and political processes;
* industry and commerce.
B. Basic procedure for harmonizing human activities with ecosystem processes.
1. Investigate ecosystem processes and components, including the effects of human activities on ecosystems and the influences of ecosystems on human functioning.
2. Recognize the importance of ecosystem processes and the significance of ecosystem changes.
3. Identify the causes of ecosystem changes and their consequences.
4. Develop alternative action strategies to maintain and enhance beneficial ecosystem changes and to reduce detrimental changes, with special attention to irreversible changes and to long range versus short range commitments of resources.
5. Analyze and evaluate alternative action strategies within a broad array of environmental, social, and economic criteria, recognizing that criteria will differ according to circumstances of politics, geography, scale, time, and society.
6. Select among alternative action strategies, and adopt a policy which can be implemented at all levels, individual through global.
7. Decide on and complete actions to implement the policy.
8. Monitor and evaluate effects of the implemented policy.
9. Feeding information gained in step 8 back through step 1 to adjust actions to changing data bases, requirements, conditions, and perceptions.
"Environmental degradation in all its forms is everybody's
business: its control will require a massive mobilization of public,
administrative and scientific concern."
-Rene J. Dubois