Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Why Study Environmental Issues?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Why Study Environmental Issues?

Article excerpt

Nature conservation and environmentalism have a long history in the United States. Dating at least as far back as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, the American environmental movement has embraced sustainable forest, fishery, and wildlife management and the preservation of wilderness areas. In 1872, the establishment of Yellowstone as the world's first national park initiated what Ken Burns's latest documentary calls The National Parks: America's Best Idea (Burns 2009).

Modern environmental education (EE) has its roots in the early 20th century, but the idea that EE be part of all students' education was propelled into the modern era by the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) and the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

Today, environmental literacy is essential. In the coming years, our students will be called upon to understand complex environmental issues and make informed decisions in their private and public lives. All this comes at a time when young people are less connected to the natural world due to various factors, such as loss of green spaces to development, concern about keeping children safe from harm, and a growing addiction to electronic media. One result: Per capita visits to national parks in the United States have declined by about 25% since 1987 (Nielson 2006).

There are many compelling reasons to include EE in our science classes. Environmental issues are interdisciplinary--facilitating their inclusion in both physical and life science. They are also complex, providing students with the opportunity to investigate multivariable systems and appreciate the "messy" world of real science. …

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