Environment-based education programs “are vibrant, living programs that engage students and teachers in active learning that has meaning for their daily lives and for their futures. And, they give students from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to become active, contributing members of the global society of the twenty-first century.” ~ Dr. Gerald Lieberman
California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs) have a timely and relevant place in our state frameworks.
Background: In 2003, the California Education and the Environment Initiative, Assembly Bill 1548, was passed by California’s legislature and signed into law by the governor. It called upon multiple state agencies, including the State Board of Education, California Department of Education, and Natural Resources Agency, to work with the California Environmental Protection Agency and Integrated Waste Management Board (now CalRecycle) to implement several initiatives intended to increase the environmental literacy of students throughout the state’s TK–12 education system.
In 2004, identification of key environmental content resulted in the development and adoption of California’s EP&Cs. Developed by more than 100 scientists and technical experts, they examine the interdependence of human societies and natural systems and are the foundation of the model Education and the Environment Initiative Curriculum.
We and our partners work to raise awareness of the EP&Cs, sharing them at statewide rollouts of new standards and frameworks, with instructional materials publishers in exemplars, and with professional learning providers where they are being integrated into professional learning courses for teachers.
As a result of these partnerships, California has revised the Science, History-Social Science, Health, and Arts Frameworks to formally include the EP&Cs.
These curriculum frameworks provide guidance for implementing the content standards adopted by the State Board of Education. Standards are often referred to as the what students should learn and be able to do, while the curriculum framework is the document that provides the how. California frameworks also play a part in determining which textbooks and other instructional materials are approved by the Board for use in classrooms statewide.
In 2018, Ten Strands sponsored SB 720, which was signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., on September 13, 2018. The bill was authored by Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond—now California’s State Superintendent for Public Instruction. SB 720 strengthens California’s commitment to providing all public school students with the opportunity to learn in and through their local environment, better preparing them to lead our state into the future. This legislation:
- Directs the State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction, district superintendents, and their school boards to support environmental literacy;
- Codifies California’s adopted EP&Cs in Education Code as the state’s definition of environmental literacy;
- Moves core ideas from California’s Blueprint for Environmental Literacy into California’s Education Code;
- Ensures inclusion of the EP&Cs in new curriculum frameworks, providing educators clear guidelines on integrating environmental literacy into core subject areas and classrooms;
- Adds climate change and environmental justice as topics covered under the EP&Cs.