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April 16, 2014

21st Century Interdisciplinary Theme

Environmental Literacy

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, schools must not only focus on mastery of core subjects, but also promote understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into those subjects. One of these themes is environmental literacy, which includes knowledge and understanding of the environment and the circumstances and conditions affecting it. It also involves investigating and analyzing environmental issues and making accurate conclusions about effective solutions. And it encourages individual and collective action toward addressing environmental challenges.

Bring Earth Day to Life

Planning for Earth Day (April 22) 2014 is well under way around the world. Bring environmental issues to your classroom with resources from PBS LearningMedia. Highlights include an animated video from Loop Scoops using orange juice consumption to teach about biodegradation, and an interactive game from Keep America Beautiful that details the process of composting and the roles that soil microbes, oxygen and moisture play in that process. In addition, the game challenges students to start and maintain a virtual compost pile.

Also find Clue into Climate, a free downloadable student workbook exploring fundamental science concepts through the lens of climate science and the use of digital media resources. The eight-page workbook, from PBS’s KQED education network, includes vocabulary development activities and investigations followed by peer review. It also includes activities related to STEM literacy, media literacy, climate careers as well as ideas for Taking Action—all aligned to state and national science standards for grades 4–8.

Become Environmental Stewards

In 1970 more than 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. This year more than a billion people are expected to take part in Earth Day events around the world. Help your students consider their long-term role as environmental stewards by planning global education projects that challenge students to think (and act) beyond their classrooms.

For example, do your students live in an urban area? Plan a project that promotes critical thinking about the design of more sustainable, resilient cities. Check out the green cities resources at the Earth Day Network or join the global conversation about resilient cities promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Earth Day Network has published a free K–12 toolkit with resources for bringing the green cities campaign to your community.

Survive and Thrive

If you’re looking for a science activity to introduce environmental issues or real-world math problems, take a look at Smithsonian Education’s “Prehistoric Climate Change and Why It Matters Today.” In this free online activity, students do the work of a team of paleontologists studying a time of rapid global warming 55 million years ago. By examining fossils of leaves from various tree species, and incorporating the findings into a mathematical formula, the class will be able to tell average annual temperatures during that prehistoric time.

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