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Volume 27, Number 1
January/February 2011

The Greening of Environmental Ed

Teachers focus on complexity, evidence, and letting students draw their own conclusions


North Carolina teacher Florence Gullickson and her students look for benthic macroinvertebrates—tiny animals that hold clues to the quality of river water near their school.

In the marine science classes he teaches at La Jolla High School in southern California, David James spends a lot of time talking to his students about plankton—phytoplankton, zooplankton, all kinds of plankton—because plankton is essential to the survival of humankind.

Plankton is at the bottom of the food chain. It’s what little fish eat before they’re eaten by bigger fish. Commonly known forms of plankton are algae and jelly¬fish. Not so commonly known, however, is that the photosynthesis of phytoplankton—the plant version of plankton—is responsible for roughly half the earth’s oxygen.

James’s students spend a lot of time either outside or in a lab. They’ve visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the Hopkins Marine Station on California’s Monterey Peninsula, and they’ve helped with a global initiative known as the Census of Marine Life. “One of the goals is to get them out there and making observations,” he says.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

The North American Association for Environmental Education and its local affiliates have resources for educators on teaching environmental education, including “Guidelines for Excellence.”