Posted by: Dan | July 1, 2006

Education and environmental impacts

EurekAlert has a release out for a study that gets at what I’ve written and been thinking, regarding the intersection of science, education and society, titled Study shows lack of national consensus on teaching K-12 students about human-environmental impacts.

The destruction caused by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and human activities such as mountaintop removal mining are powerful examples of how the environment and society are tightly interwoven. But to what extent do, or should, state science curricula in the U.S. seek to investigate or influence the nature of this interaction? That is a question new research being published in a special issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education examines by looking at the degree to which the individual state science education standards encourage study of society and the environment as interrelated systems.

What the researchers, scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, found is surprising for its lack of consensus. Across the nation, there is generally more attention paid to teaching about how human society impacts the environment than for teaching about how the environment impacts humans and society–but support for both vary widely throughout the country. Moreover, in most states there is minimal or no support in the standards for teaching about the ways in which individual actions affect the environment.


This might be trivial, or it might not be. Certainly, the influences of both individuals and groups within society on the environment are worth learning about. Understanding the impacts of our actions also seems to be an effective step towards a more sustainable society, and would help people make better choices when it comes to their living habits.

Yet, as this study suggests, it would seem that such simple educational concepts are neglected.


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