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Riding the Waves of EBE

Originally appears in the Fall 2016 issue

DUCKING UNDER a paper iceberg to enter the classroom revealed a space transformed: the elementary school tables and chairs had become an “arctic habitat.” Butcher paper, crayoned with depictions of the arctic, covered the tables; handmade penguins and other ocean animals dangled from the ceiling. The first graders’ research on penguins was just the beginning of their evolving understanding of ocean ecosystems. Their school was located 2,431 miles from the arctic, in New Hampshire, part of the northeastern United States. Nonetheless, their teacher was able to deeply engage them in environment-based education (EBE) with ocean ecosystems by using an integrated English Language Arts (ELA), social studies, and science approach.

As a result of public policy guidelines and mandates, lack of time is often a primary obstacle for teaching content other than ELA and mathematics in public schools. In this article, a school teacher, an academic, and a writer unite to offer existing green teachers, as well as those reluctant to embrace environmental education due to time constraints, an integrated framework that fits EBE seamlessly into ELA instructional time. Additionally, we maintain the equal importance of situating EBE not only in science, the historically predominant content area for environmental education, but also in social studies. Because environmental education (EE) is a broad term encompassing nature centers, urban centers, and more, when taught in schools it is often referred to as EBE.1

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Anneliese Worster is currently faculty in the Childhood Education and Care Department at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. Trish-Marie Ziakas has been teaching in a New Hampshire school district for 10 years. Jennifer Whitten is a writer, editor, and educator with a passion for helping students explore their connection to the greater community of living beings.

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3. Palmer, J. (1998). Environmental Education in the 21st Century: Theory, Practice, Progress, and Promise. NY:Routledge.
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