Applying practical science lessons outdoors boosts engagement
California has long encouraged programs that take students outdoors for science lessons; its first public outdoor program opened in San Diego County 70 years ago, and 20 such programs now exist, EdSource reports.
Outdoor programs also support new science standards, since they have an organic focus on asking questions based on observation, carrying out investigations, analyzing data, hands-on learning and collaborative interaction.
The California Department of Education released a report last year, “A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy,” which called on education leaders to integrate knowledge of the environment into more core subject instruction.
While Next Generation Science Standards have sparked controversies in certain states, California isn't one of them. In West Virginia, lawmakers voted to delay the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, saying concepts like global warming and climate change are ideological and politically-driven. That reluctance to embrace climate change and global warming in the classroom may be directly tied to the state's faltering coal industry, a leading source of carbon emissions.
In Wyoming, the new science standards were blocked by legislators before the decision was reversed, but the new standards were still ultimately rejected. Kansas fielded a lawsuit from the group called Citizens for Objective Public Education, arguing that the standards teach “a non-theistic religious Worldview.”
For their parts, both California and Hawaii have incorporated ed-tech and innovation to advance student levels of engagement with science, embracing the new standards. One Hawaiian initiative called Ka Hei creatively teaches students about sustainable energy via STEM, using Defined STEM curriculum from Defined Learning and OpTerra Energy Services. And California's Pasadena Unified School District will utilize STEMscopes California, a “hands-on digital STEM curriculum," at 24 schools in grades K-6 to meet the Next Generation Science Standards.