Using Environment-Based Education to Transform the School Campus

Using Environment-Based Education to Transform the School Campus

Deirdre C. Greer (Columbus State University, USA) and Pam Wetherington (Columbus State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6312-1.ch015


A focus on building environmentally sustainable schools emerged in the 1990s; however, building green schools is cost prohibitive due to limited education construction budgets. One solution is to engage children in transforming existing schools while incorporating environment-based education. Environment-based education is a form of project-based learning that employs a student-centered approach to teaching integrated curriculum. Project-based learning has been shown to be beneficial in supporting the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of students. Benefits of project-based learning include building a sense of community within the classroom, encouraging parent involvement, increased motivation and engagement, and increased academic achievement. This chapter explores possibilities for transforming existing schools to be more environmentally friendly, considering the benefits of engaging students in authentic projects and providing examples of ways to get students of all ages involved in projects that can extend environmental awareness from the school to home and into the community.
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Project-Based Learning

The idea of project-based learning is not new nor is it limited to a particular topic. Environment-based education engages children in project work using environmental themes. Researchers have found that project work has many benefits in classrooms across all grade levels (Duvall & Zint, 2007; Geier, Blumenfeld, Marx, Krajcik, Soloway, E., & Clay-Chambers, 2008; Mitchell, Foulger, Wetzel, & Rathkey, 2009; National Research Council, 2000; Sloane, 2004). Students who engage in project work are able to approach learning from their interests. The authenticity of projects requires children to make decisions that have real consequences. Students may select a topic of interest for project work, or a project may be generated from a particular set of standards (Sloane, 2004). Pam Wetherington, a former fourth-grade teacher, recalls her project-based teaching, “At the beginning of my second year of teaching in 2009, the project ‘Disney’s Planet Challenge’ was presented to me. I knew if I could get [my students] excited about serving others, they would begin to develop the understandings of (1) recognizing that their communities would greatly benefit from their ideas and contributions, and (2) the importance and impact of making a difference in the lives of others.” Disney´s Planet Challenge (DPC) is a competition that combines project work with environmental education to motivate students to use their creativity to get involved in improving the Earth (Disney, 2009). Often, the guidelines provided by activities such as this can lead teachers to project work.

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