The Handbook of Environmental Education

By Joy Palmer; Philip Neal | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

Planning and practice at the primary level


We believe that there is no single ‘right or wrong’ way to approach the teaching and learning of environmental education in the primary phase. Case studies which follow will show that the theme can be a highly successful starting point for formal, subject-based learning or a unifying element in topic work. Whichever approach or combination of approaches is utilized, it is, however, essential that first-hand experiences of the environment are at the forefront of teaching and learning. The knowledge, understanding and processes of related curriculum areas such as science, mathematics and geography should be developed through environmental experiences in the context of each pupil’s individual potential and natural curiosity.

A helpful framework to be borne in mind when planning topics might well be one that consists of two mutually dependent components. This can be expressed as a matrix in which the vertical component corresponds to the core and foundation subjects and the horizontal component corresponds to the cross-curricular theme of environmental education. Both components should show the relevant range of knowledge, understanding and skills, and will demonstrate a great deal of common ground. A useful place to start when building up more complex plans is by a simpler analysis of components of environmental topics, key issues involved, and knowledge and skills to be developed.

These aspects of structured planning will be exemplified through case studies of good practice from primary school classrooms. First however, we introduce a comprehensive model for teaching and learning in environmental education which underpins effective work in this area.

Part I provided an overview and diagrammatic summary of the interrelated components of environmental education (Fig. 4.1, p. 30). This identified the importance of educating for, in and about the environment, while planning teaching and learning tasks across a range of environmental knowledge, understandings, concepts, skills and


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