Monday, March 20, 2017

Sacramento High School Teacher Integrates Environmental Literacy into Classroom

Kyle McDaniel is an Earth Science teacher at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. He is integrating environmental literacy into his classroom instruction by using the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum as a foundation for his science classes. 
CalRecycle’s EEI curriculum teaches K-12 science and history-social science through an environmental lens. The EEI curriculum is a model for upcoming science and history-social science textbook adoptions, which are required to integrate environmental principles and concepts. 

McDaniel appreciates the flexibility of the curriculum. “If I’m looking for a two-week curriculum that is self-contained and student-driven, I look at the available units on the subject I’m teaching,” says McDaniel. EEI curriculum spans kindergarten through 12th grade and includes 6 biology units, 6 earth science units, and 45 history-social science units that incorporate environmental literacy into topics like world history, economics, and American democracy.

McDaniel looks for ways to teach earth science concepts in light of current events. He is currently teaching an EEI curriculum unit on California’s water, titled Liquid Gold: California’s Water. “Water is an important topic in California right now. Students can learn about the political debate around emergency drought water restrictions staying in place. The California drought is so current and so important in their lives.”

McDaniel loves the flexibility of the EEI curriculum. “I print the student reader material and instruct students to take notes on the pages.” McDaniel encourages students to keep their student workbook and take it home with them at the end of the unit.  He allows students to use the reader booklets during tests, too, but he requires that students properly cite their sources. “I wanted a closer alignment between finding information, extracting it, and citing it. Students need to be able to learn how to cite their evidence.”

McDaniel uses the EEI curriculum to take students outside to study their campus environment. Students toured their campus and noted on a map the areas of their school property that had surfaces permeable to water. “I wanted students to analyze how water moves around our campus. After a rainstorm, where does the water flow? Where does pollution end up?” McDaniel also incorporates geometry to help students calculate the surface area of the campus. “There are a lot of topics you can cover with an EEI unit,” says McDaniel. In the coming weeks, students will be using water quality probes to gather water samples from different places in the community to analyze the pH, salinity, and turbidity of water.

McDaniel first heard about the Education and Environment Initiative at the California Education Seminar in Sacramento. “I attended a workshop and met another teacher using it. I learned about the different units and how to use it in my classroom. Since then I’ve taught biology and earth science using EEI,” recalls McDaniel.

If you’d like to learn more about the EEI curriculum please visit Teachers interested in using the curriculum can choose to attend an in-person training or watch a pre-recorded webinar.

This article was originally published in the CalRecycle blog. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

EEI News: Spring Edition

It's hard to believe that we are more than half-way through the school year and spring is just around the corner! This Sunday is Daylight Saving Time so as you move your clock forward (and struggle with losing that hour of extra sleep), grab a cup of coffee, and cozy up to this latest edition of the EEI news.

Lodi Students Learn about California Watershed with the EEI Curriculum

Three years ago, Kathy Grant, the City of Lodi Watershed Program Coordinator, enlisted the help of CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment (OEE) to organize a free teacher professional development program to equip educators with resources to teach students about water. Read more.

EdSource Article Features Environmental Principles & Concepts

In case you missed it! A recent EdSource article entitled "California renews push to promote environmental literacy in schools" featured the Environmental Principles and Concepts and the EEI Curriculum. Read the article here.

Join us at the NSTA Conference in Los Angeles

Planning to attend the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) conference in LA? We'll be presenting a session entitled, "Using the Environment as a Springboard to Real World 3D Learning" on March 30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. For more information, please visit our conferences page.

2017 CSTA Conference: Call for Environmental Literacy Workshop Proposals

We are pleased to announce that the 2017 California Science Education Conference will include an environmental literacy strand. Interested educators who can provide teachers with resources that promote environmental literacy and specifically address implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards are encouraged to apply. Applications are due March 20. Learn more.

Parent Feedback Needed on Environment-Based Learning

The statewide Environmental Literacy Steering Committee is seeking parent feedback for a statewide initiative that will bring environment-based learning to all of California’s 6.2 million K–12 students. A facilitated listening session will take place remotely on March 15, 2017 from 7:00–8:30 pm. If you are interested in participating, please sign up here. Parents selected to participate in the session will receive detailed call-in instructions, as well as a $50 gift card as a thank you for their contribution.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lodi Students Learn About California Watersheds with the EEI Curriculum

Three years ago, Kathy Grant, the City of Lodi Watershed Program Coordinator, enlisted the help of CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment (OEE) to organize a free teacher professional development program to equip educators with resources to teach students about water. The event was such a success that the city has continued to offer the program to new teachers each school year.

The foundational piece of the City of Lodi’s program is the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum, a free K-12 resource from CalRecycle that uses the environment as a context for learning science and history-social science. More than half of the EEI curriculum addresses the topic of water and complements the city’s efforts to incorporate field trips, journalism, and community art into science education.

This year’s Free Annual EEI Workshop was held in September and drew 21 teachers from the Lodi Unified School District. Teachers trained in past years’ programs returned to share stories about their experience with the curriculum and offer advice to new teachers. This year, Grant also invited representatives from the California Water Education Foundation and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, both of which offer resources that can complement the EEI curriculum. The California Water Education Foundation provides water conservation resources such as the Project WET curriculum, and the Department of Parks and Recreation’s PORTS program offers online, virtual field trip resources for teachers and students.

If teachers choose to use the EEI curriculum, the watershed program offers a $200 stipend for their classroom. Every year, she sees five to ten teachers start using the curriculum, which represents hundreds of students throughout the city.

“Every year there’s a new face, which is all I’m personally after,” Grant says. “The teachers who use EEI become involved in the local community. We see students and teachers participating in cleanup events near local watersheds.”

Grant is especially excited that so many educators use the curriculum as a starting place for field trips. Many teachers have reported that using the EEI curriculum in the classroom is a great way to build their students’ knowledge on a subject before venturing out on field trips. As a result, Lodi Unified teachers are taking their students out of the classrooms and into the mountains, to the Delta, to the Pacific Ocean, to see the Sandhill Cranes, and to study water quality in different watersheds around the region.

Watershed field trips make a big impact on Lodi students. To memorialize the experience, Grant has been instrumental in coordinating a clay art build by inviting Davis clay artist Donna Billick to help students sculpt a clay mandala depicting the wildlife they saw on a field trip. Students at Heritage Elementary built a clay mural that was ultimately installed at the Lodi Library entrance.

If you would like to host a similar training in your community, please visit the California Education and the Environment website and contact your local environmental education specialist.

Grant is pleased that the program has been so successful. At the end of the school year, teachers return to the workshop to present their experiences to the EEI workshop. “That’s probably the best meeting,” says Grant. “Teachers get to talk to and learn from each other.” Grant also oversees a blog dedicated to Lodi teachers using the EEI curriculum to educate students about California’s watersheds.

The EEI curriculum supports Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, and it works well for integration with curricula for accelerated classes as well as for English language learners and students with special needs. Grant observed one class field trip during which students captured leaves, bugs, and water in a watershed. “It was rewarding to see students struggling with English get excited about looking at bugs under a microscope,” Grant says. Advanced students take field trips a step further and write newspaper articles about their favorite trip or project. Their articles are published in the Mokelumne Current, a section of the Lodi Sentinel Newspaper.

“Water is the most important resource we have,” Grant says. “It cuts across cultures. We shouldn’t take it for granted. The younger we can impress this upon kids, the better.”

If you would like to learn more about the Education and the Environment Initiative curriculum, please visit our website at The curriculum features both science and history-social science, and free face-to-face and online trainings make it easy for teachers to start utilizing the curriculum right away.

—Christina Files

 This article was originally published on the CalRecycle blog.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Los Angeles Teacher Becomes 10,000th EEI Educator!

When elementary school teacher Hannah Estes sat down at her computer to order “Living Things in Changing Environments” she had no idea she would earn the distinction of becoming the 10,000th teacher to order an EEI Curriculum unit!

Estes, a third grade teacher from Williard F. Payne Elementary in Los Angeles, learned about the EEI by attending a summer teaching institute offered by her school district. 

When asked what convinced her to give the EEI Curriculum a try in her classroom, the veteran teacher of 24 years said she was impressed with the curriculum’s high-quality visuals and how it centers around California.

 “I have a large percentage of English learners in my classroom and they find the content comprehensible and engaging. I was also attracted to the focus on California-based environmental issues and the connections to ELA as well as social studies content standards,” said Estes.

Estes has since received her free copy of “Living Things in Changing Environments” and has used it with her students. She says the EEI Curriculum is fitting nicely into her lesson plans. “The students are very connected to the message that humans and living things cause change to the environment. They look forward to our science lesson every day.”

Take a moment to welcome Hannah into the EEI community by leaving a comment below!

Environmental Literacy Gets Boost from Newly Approved Science Framework

You might have heard that California became the first state in the country to adopt a new science framework based on the Next Generation Science Standards, but did you know that this framework also includes an explicit focus on the teaching of environmental literacy?

For the first time in state history, the framework incorporates five key environmental principles and concepts (EP&Cs) designed to help students understand the complex relationship between humans and the natural world.

The EP&Cs will sound familiar to readers of this blog since they are the building blocks for the environmental content taught in the EEI Curriculum. They state that humans depend on, benefit from, and influence the earth’s natural systems. As students master these concepts and learn to apply them in real world situations, their environmental literacy grows. 

Teachers will find the framework a helpful resource because it provides examples of how the environment can be used as an authentic, relevant, and engaging context for teaching the NGSS. Within the framework, teachers will find a number of  vignettes – stories that illustrate what three-dimensional environment-based lessons look like.

For example, middle school students may be presented with the engineering challenge of figuring out how to divert rainwater away from road surfaces, where it can pick up oil, grit, and other pollutants, and, instead, redirect it into the ground to minimize flooding and maximize filtration. Seventh grade students may be tasked with graphing fish populations under various global warming scenarios. High school chemistry students can explore the increasing acidification of the world’s oceans, the causes, and potential remedies.

Appendix 2 of the framework, entitled K-12 Connections to Environmental Principles and Concepts, is another useful resource for understanding how specific NGSS standards can be supported by the EP&Cs.

State officials and education experts agree that using the environment as a context for learning is a great way to get more kids excited about science. And now more than ever it is important that our students not just “know” about the environment – they also need to be critical consumers of information and problem solvers. In this way our future citizenry will be prepared to tackle and offer solutions to the complex environmental challenges that effect our everyday lives.

In addition to offering teachers guidance on how to incorporate environmental literacy into their classroom instruction, the framework will guide textbook publishers in the creation of new science materials. This means that state-adopted textbooks arriving in 2018-19 will feature lessons that help students see the real world connections between science, the environment, and their daily lives . This is exciting news for everyone involved in the effort to bring standards-based environmental education to California K-12 classrooms.

The final draft of the 2015-2016 Science Framework approved by the California State Board of Education can be viewed here.

What steps are you taking to bring environmental literacy to your students? Let us know in the comment section below!

Monday, September 12, 2016

A New Look for a New School Year

If you haven't visited the California EEI website recently, now would be a great time to do so!

Over the past year we've been busy re-designing and upgrading our website to improve the overall user experience. We believe this has resulted in a clean, crisp, and modern feel that makes it easier to read and use and better showcases the EEI curriculum and our training services.

We hope that you are as happy with these changes as much as we are! Please read on to learn more about some of the key changes to the site:

Improved EEI Curriculum Unit Database

The Access EEI page, which houses our 85 science and history-social science units, has been redesigned so that you don't have to scroll as far to find your desired unit.

In addition, the new simplified filter option allows you to find units based on grade level/course, environmental topic, or subject area. 

Dedicated EEI Unit Pages

Now you can click on a specific EEI unit and be directed to a dedicated page for that unit.

These unit pages provide a detailed description of the unit, associated environmental topics, and links to all unit components in PDF format. Best of all you can now use your browser's bookmark tool to save your favorite units for quick and easy access. Also it will make it easier for you to share your favorite units with colleagues and friends. Simply copy/paste the url for the specific unit into the body of an email or a social media post and click send!

Brand New Content

In addition to our redesign, we also debuted several new pieces of web content. These include:

Thank you for your web visits and your continual support of the EEI Curriculum! Let us know what you think of these changes in the comment section below or send an email to

Friday, September 2, 2016

Welcome to our new blog!

Welcome to the California Education and the Environment Initiative's (EEI) new blog. This space will be used to share news and updates about the EEI curriculum and the State of California's environmental literacy efforts.

As we build this blog, we intend to feature information about specific EEI units, highlight teacher and student stories from the classroom, and share recommendations for materials and resources that can be used alongside the EEI curriculum. 

We also hope that this space will serve as an additional area for you to interact with us and your fellow EEI teachers. Please feel free to comment and ask questions in the comment section below each blog article. Share your thoughts on environment-based learning, tell us what's worked and what hasn't worked in your classroom, or simply offer tips and advice to teachers who are looking for guidance - let's learn together!

We look forward to building this community with you and thank you for stopping by!