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Greening the Elementary Education Curriculum One Course at a Time

Originally appears in the Summer 2009 issue

As a former teacher educator, I felt compelled to prepare future elementary and secondary teachers with the knowledge, skills and resources they would need to address topics that are significant and urgent but might be perceived to be outside their mandated curricular requirements. One such topic was environmental issues. Until fairly recently, there was a conspicuous inattention to environmental topics in the general teacher preparation curriculum. It wasn’t until about five years ago that momentum began to build for the idea of infusing environmental education into the teacher-preparation curriculum by incorporating it into existing courses.1

Perhaps it was the urgency in realizing that all future educators need to be environmentally literate that the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the accrediting body for pre-service teacher education, partnered with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) to create the Standards for the Initial Preparation of Environmental Educators, which were approved by NCATE in October 2007.2 While this step is welcome, and certainly will result in more teachers being environmentally literate and prepared to teach about such topics, individual teacher educators need not only rely on these standards. NCATE accredits about half of all teacher education programs in the United States. What about non-NCATE accredited teacher preparation programs? What can teacher educators at these institutions do? With thought, preparation and a willingness on the part of the instructor to see one’s course in a new way, any teacher education course has the potential to be green.

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Penelope Wong is a school designer for Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound and was formerly a teacher educator.

Acknowledgements: This work was supported by a grant provided by the Associated Colleges of the South. Special thanks to Elizabeth MacNabb for providing feedback on drafts of this article.