Teaching Environmental Literacy in Schools | TeacherPortal.com

ECO Classrooms

As scientists continue to discuss and debate the negative effects human activities have on our planet, one thing is certain: It’s important to ensure our children are being educated about the state of our environment. Just consider some of the environmental concerns we face:

  • Each year, an area of forest approximately the size of Costa Rica is destroyed.
  • The polar ice cap is half the size it was in 1980, which some scientists believe is causing a host of other problems, including drastic changes to global temperatures and seasons.
  • A giant floating debris field, known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” is estimated to cover 7 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in history. This is a result of global warming -- that's right, it's a measurable phenomenon, not a myth. These temperature changes are heightening natural disasters, public health threats and more.

What does this mean for our world? Is there anything we can do to make it better? These are some of the crucial questions that environmental science teachers strive to help their students understand and answer. In environmental science classes, K-12 students have a chance to learn what makes an environment healthy and unhealthy, as well as how to create possible solutions to environmental problems. Students interested in environmental science can continue what they’ve learned in K-12 by earning a college degree in a variety of environmental studies, including environmental policy, environmental business and environmental science. It’s not just students interested in further environmental studies who benefit from studying the environment, however. This subject profoundly affects the futures of all students, regardless of age or major.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a successful environmental education program imparts environmental literacy to students by giving them:

  • Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and its challenges
  • Knowledge and understanding of the environment
  • Concern for the environment
  • Motivation to maintain and improve the environment
  • Skills and knowledge to identify and solve environmental problems
  • Opportunities to participate in activities that help solve environmental issues and challenges

While “going green” has been a buzz-phrase for the new millennium, it might surprise you to know that in member-countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 19 percent of 15-year olds have attained the highest level of proficiency in the environmental sciences. According to Francesca Borgonovi of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), “The proportion of 15-year-olds who perform poorly in environmental science is an important indicator of whether a country will have an adult population that has sufficient knowledge and understanding to respond to the environmental challenges of the future.”

What can we do to ensure that our kids are learning what they need to know about the environment? And what can we teach our students about being good stewards for the world they live in? Learn more from our infographic below, and read about what it takes to teach environmental science.


  1. Environmental Education, U.S Environmental Protection Agency
  2. Global Warming, National Resources Defence Counsil
  3. How "Green" are Today's 15-Year-Olds?, OECD PISA, April 2012

For a complete list of sources, please view the Infographic.

ECO Classrooms
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