Connecting STEM Rich Learning Environments With Environmental Education

Connecting STEM Rich Learning Environments With Environmental Education

Ellen Hamilton-Ford (Campbellsville University, USA) and Jeffrey D. Herron (Campbellsville University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch012
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The objective of this chapter is to provide an overview of research in the convergence of environmental education and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (E-STEM) education models through a values-based framework for nature. An argument for the interconnectedness of environmental education and STEM programs is presented. A further argument presented that nature-based learning environments engage children in E-STEM. Lastly, an exploration of research suggests how various pedagogical practices incorporate and facilitate the E-STEM paradigm to prepare young children for 21st century workforce that can solve large, complex problems in an information and service-based economy.
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To understand the present relevance of E-STEM, the education paradigm of environmental education and the collective subjects in the acronym STEM requires examination. Historically, the constructs of STEM date back to the western expansion of the United States, arguably global modernization in the late 1700s early 1800s, with the design of railroads, bridges, and roads. The production of revolutionary technologies during the Industrial Revolution along with ways to improve the agrarian educational system furthered the study of STEM-related subjects. However, several historical events, The Second World War and the space race with Russia, during the 1940-1950s provided a genuine need for technologies and pushed conventional science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education to the forefront of societal wisdom (Stevenson, 2014; Oslter 2012). In the early 1990s, the National Science Foundation (n.d.) formally coined the STEM acronym.

As the last several decades proceed, a perpetual cycle of STEM frenzy continually arises as policymakers and others continually recapitulate the impending worker shortfall in the STEM field (Stevenson, 2014). To add to this cycle, an explosion of the technology fields has led to an urgent focus in interdisciplinary education to support the needs of a global workforce in technologies (Barcelona, 2014). In order to bolster the United States’ performance in the global economy, an impetus for educational reform emerged in US policies in the way of STEM educational reform. Thus, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law—which grew out of alarm that the American education system was no longer globally competitive—afforded state funding for STEM education (Klein, 2015); while further reauthorization of NCLB gave genuine attention to the infrastructure and pedagogy of STEM education. The current Every Student Succeeds Act allocates increased federal funding for programs and initiatives to support STEM education (NGSS, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Education for Sustainable Development: This includes locally relevant and culturally appropriate ecological, cultural, and economic education based on ideals and principles that bring about sustainability ( UNESCO, 2005 ).

Environmental Education: This is an approach to education that involves the constructs of ecology education, conservation education, citizenship education, government/political education, and values education. EE aims to develop a population that is “aware of, and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems” (Kopinia, 2013 AU38: The in-text citation "Kopinia, 2013" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 608) while preventing new ones.

EfS: Education for sustainability.

Education for Sustainability: This is an approach to education that emphasizes the relationship between all the systems of the earth at varying levels as they relate to the “environment, economics, government, [and] health” ( Lewis et al., 2008 , p. 141).

Nature: This term is broadly defined, encompasses all living and non-living things occurring within the natural world not made by humans. It includes humans and all forms of flora and fauna.

Ecological Values: This term refers to individuals’ convictions and behavior toward the relationships and dependencies between natural systems.

EE: Environmental education.

Principles of Harmony: This term refers to the seven principles—the Principle of Geometry, the Principle of Interdependence, the Principle of the Cycle, the Principle of Diversity, the Principle of Health and Wellbeing, the Principle of Beauty, and the Principle of Oneness—recognizing the relationship and connections between all of nature’s systems described by Richard Dunne (2015) , the headmaster of Ashley Primary School in Surrey.

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