Standards Vary for EH Curricula

By Freeman, Kris | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Standards Vary for EH Curricula


Freeman, Kris, Environmental Health Perspectives


Environmental health science is getting short shrift in some K-12 schools, according to an analysis in the May 2006 Journal of Geoscience Education. Students in some states "study the air, water, rocks, plants, and animals, but don't study any object or process caused by humans. In other states, human-environment (H-E) interactions are shoved into all sorts of nooks and crannies in the science standards," says lead author Kim Kastens, a senior research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Kastens and Margaret Turrin, education coordinator at Lamont-Doherty, examined science education standards in 49 states (Iowa has no statewide standards), focusing on courses required for graduation. All state standards included at least minimal discussion of H-E interactions, but 15 state standards included less than 1 discussion of H-E topics a year, on average. Only 2 states averaged more than 5 discussions a year.

State curricula more often included information on how humans affect the environment than on how the environment affects humans and human society. Curricula were least likely to include information on ways the actions and decisions of individuals in their daily lives impact the environment; only 57% of state standards included such information.

The paucity of H-E information is at odds with the National Science Education Standards developed by the NAS, says Bora Simmons, director of the National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education of the North American Association of Environmental Educators. …

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