Educators tout how environmental literacy can lead to well-rounded curriculum

Incorporating environmental literacy into the school curriculum can lead to higher test scores, improved student conduct and can help us move towards a more sustainable future, a group of educators and experts said during a symposium Tuesday.

About 100 teachers, school administrators and experts gathered for the event, A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, to discuss how outdoor and environmental learning experiences can serve as powerful tools to help develop a well-rounded curriculum.

four speakers are on stage discussing environmental literacy
Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares, right, speaks about the importance of environmental literacy during a symposium.

The symposium, organized by the Orange County Department of Education, OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors and the state Department of Education, was also aimed at giving educators a better understanding of how environmental literacy is being incorporated into the state’s Next Generation Science Standards.

Environmental literacy is defined as having the capacity to support ecologically sound, economically prosperous and equitable communities for present and future generations. In schools, environmental literacy can be incorporated through classroom-based lessons, experiential education and outdoor learning.

“Every teacher who connects students to nature is doing sacred work,” said author Richard Louv, the event’s keynote speaker. Louv has written extensively about the need for more people, especially children, to connect with nature. The New York Times bestseller has written books that include “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” and “Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life.”

Other speakers discussed how research and anecdotal evidence has shown how connecting students with nature — including through field trips, by building gardens and other greenery on campuses, and by studying wildlife — has led to improved academic and behavioral outcomes.

Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares touted how the OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program has been at the forefront of environmental literacy for 44 years. The program works with thousands of students annually from districts across Orange County, teaching them through field trips, classroom visits and community projects about science and nature.