Overview of Environmental Education
The Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB) defines environmental education as “a lifelong learning process that leads to an informed and involved citizenry having the creative problem-solving skills, scientific and social literacy, ethical awareness and sensitivity for the relationship between humans and the environment, and commitment to engage in responsible individual and cooperative actions. By these actions, environmentally literate citizens will help ensure an ecologically and economically sustainable environment.”

Wisconsin’s historical commitment to environmental education is well-known. Beginning in the 1930s, Wisconsin citizens recognized the need for environmental education to be an integral part of a young person’s schooling. By requiring instruction in the conservation of natural resources at both the elementary and secondary levels as well as in the teacher preparation programs, the groundwork was laid for an environmentally conscious and responsible citizenry.

Since 1983, the people of Wisconsin, through their elected officials, have achieved important environmental education goals, including:

establishing a requirement that every school district develop and implement a written, sequential curriculum plan incorporating instruction in environmental education into all subject area curriculum plans, with the greatest emphasis in plans for art, health, science, and social studies education [see Wisconsin Administrative Code PI 8.01(2)(k)].

Because environmental education is interdisciplinary, previous efforts to define discipline centered content standards have not fully captured its essence. Content and performance standards for each of the disciplines have environmental content, yet there is no umbrella document that describes the integration of these disciplinary standards to create curricula that will produce environmentally literate citizens. References have been made throughout this document to the content and performance standards for other disciplines in order to assist with the interdisciplinary approach to environmental education.

Many Wisconsin schools integrate environmental examples into some of their coursework, thereby fostering enthusiasm for science and other disciplines. Infusing environmental education throughout the K-12 curriculum increases classroom learning. Environmental education provides a vehicle for engendering responsible citizenship, utilizing a variety of instructional models and guidelines that have been long accepted in the field of education.

Although content and performance standards outline the core ingredients for quality environmental education, they do not prescribe how environmental education will be taught at the local level. Educators, community members, and parents will continue to develop appropriate curricula using the standards as guidelines against which they can monitor the quality of their children’s environmental education experiences.

In the text that follows, terms with an asterisk (*) are defined and/or exemplified in the Glossary of Terms following the standards.
Content Standard: Students in Wisconsin will use credible research methods to investigate environmental questions, revise their personal understanding to accommodate new knowledge and perspectives, and be able to communicate this understanding to others.

Rationale: Developing an understanding of the environment and environmental sustainability depends on students’ willingness and ability to ask questions about the world around them, speculate and hypothesize, seek information, and develop answers to their questions. Environmental literacy requires a familiarity with some basic modes of inquiry; a mastery of fundamental skills for gathering, organizing, interpreting, synthesizing, and evaluating information; developing explanations; and communicating these understandings to others.
By the end of grade 4 students will:
A.4.1 Make observations, ask questions and plan environmental investigations* (see Science [SC] Inquiry; English/Language Arts [LA] Research)
A.4.2 Collect information, make predictions, and offer explanations about questions asked (see: SC Inquiry)
A.4.3 Develop answers, draw conclusions, and revise their personal understanding as needed based on their investigations* (see SC Inquiry) A.4.4 Communicate their understanding to others in simple terms (see LA Writing)
By the end of grade 8 students will:
A.8.1 Identify environmental issue* questions that can be investigated using resources and equipment available (see SC Inquiry; LA Research)
A.8.2 Collect information from a variety of resources, conduct experiments, and develop possible solutions to their investigations*
A.8.3 Use techniques such as modeling and simulating to organize information gathered in their investigations* (see Mathematics [MA] Process)
A.8.4 Use critical-thinking strategies to interpret and analyze gathered information (see SC Inquiry) *See Glossary of Terms.
A.8.5 Use the results of their investigations* to develop answers, draw conclusions, and revise their personal understanding
A.8.6 Communicate the results of investigations* by using a variety of media and logically defend their answers (see LA Writing; Math [MA] Process)
By the end of grade 12 students will:
A.12.1 Identify questions that require skilled investigation* to solve current problems* cited in literature, media, or observed through personal observations (see LA Research)
A.12.2 Suggest possible investigations* and describe the results that might emerge from the investigations* (see SC Inquiry)
A.12.3 Evaluate personal investigations* and those of others, critiquing procedures, results, and sources of data and suggest improvements to the investigation* (see LA Research; MA Process)
A.12.4 State and interpret their results accurately and consider other explanations for their results (see LA Writing)
A.12.5 Communicate the results of their investigations* to groups concerned with the issue* (see LA Oral Language)
Content Standards: Students in Wisconsin will demonstrate an understanding of the natural environment and the interrelationships among natural systems.
Rationale: The foundation of environmental education is a basic understanding of the processes of the interacting systems that comprise the environment. Therefore, it is essential that students have knowledge of the earth as a dynamic, physical, and living system that has been affected over time by various human societies. This knowledge is a necessary prerequisite for problem-solving activities required for individual and community response to environmental issues.
By the end of grade 4 students will:
Energy and Ecosystems
B.4.1 Describe the flow of energy* in natural systems, citing the sun as the source of energy* on the earth; e.g., a food chain (see SC Physical Science)
B.4.2 Illustrate how they use energy* in their daily lives
B.4.3 List sources of energy,* distinguishing between renewable* and nonrenewable* sources
B.4.4 List the components of an ecosystem,* including the qualities of a healthy habitat* (see SC Life and Environmental Science)
B.4.5 Describe natural and human-built ecosystems* in Wisconsin
B.4.6 Cite examples of how different organisms adapt to their habitat*
B.4.7 Draw a simple hydrologic cycle*
Natural Resources and Environmental Quality
B.4.8 Describe and give examples of natural resources;* e.g., water, minerals, soils, air (see SC Nature of Science)
B.4.9 Distinguish between renewable* and nonrenewable* resources
B.4.10 Describe how they use natural resources* in their daily lives
B.4.11 List jobs in the community that result from or are influenced by processing and using natural resources*
B.4.12 Determine the cause of different types of pollution*
By the end of grade 8 students will:
Energy and Ecosystems
B.8.1 Describe the flow of energy* in a natural and a human-built ecosystem* using the laws of thermodynamics (see SC Physical Science) B.8.2 Explain how change is a natural process, citing examples of succession,* evolution,* and extinction B.8.3 Explain the importance of biodiversity*
B.8.4 Map the levels of organization of matter; e.g., subatomic particles through biomes (see SC Physical Science)
B.8.5 Give examples of human impact on various ecosystems*
B.8.6 Describe major ecosystems* of Wisconsin (see SC Life and Environmental Science)
B.8.7 Illustrate the conservation of matter using biogeochemical cycles; e.g., carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous
B.8.8 Explain interactions among organisms or populations of organisms
B.8.9 Explain how the environment is perceived differently by various cultures* (see SC Nature of Science)
B.8.10 Explain and cite examples of how humans shape the environment
B.8.11 Describe our society* as an ecosystem*
Natural Resources and Environmental Quality
B.8.12 Provide examples of how different cultures* use natural resources reflecting the economic, aesthetic, and other values* of that culture
B.8.13 Diagram how resources are distributed around the world (see SC Nature of Science; Social Studies [SS] Political Science and Citizenship: Power, Authority, Governance, and Responsibility)
B.8.14 Identify the natural resources* that are found in Wisconsin and those that are imported
B.8.15 Analyze how people impact their environment through resource use
B.8.16 Recognize the economic, environmental, and other factors that impact resource availability and explain why certain resources are becoming depleted
B.8.17 Explain how human resource use can impact the environment; e.g., erosion, burning fossil fuels
B.8.18 Identify major air, water, or land pollutants and their sources
B.8.19 Distinguish between point* and nonpoint source* pollution*
B.8.20 Identify types of waste* and methods for waste* reduction (see SC Earth and Space Science)
B.8.21 Identify and analyze individual, local, regional, national, and global effects of pollution* on plant, animal, and human health
B.8.22 Identify careers related to natural resources* and environmental concerns (see SC Applications) B.8.23 Identify governmental and private agencies responsible for environmental protection and natural resource* management B.8.24 Create a timeline of Wisconsin history in resource management (see SC Nature of Science)
By the end of grade 12 students will:
Energy and Ecosystem
B.12.1 Evaluate the relationship of matter and energy* and the flow of energy* in natural, managed, and built systems (see SC Physical Science)
B.12.2 Describe the value of ecosystems* from a natural and human perspective; e.g., food, shelter, flood control, water purification
B.12.3 Evaluate the stability and sustainability* of ecosystems* in response to changes* in environmental conditions (see SC Life and Environmental Science)
B.12.4 Analyze the factors that determine the number of organisms that can exist in a given area
B.12.5 Analyze past and current trends in ecosystem* degradation and species extinction (see SC Earth and Space Science)
B.12.6 Predict population response to changes* in environmental conditions
B.12.7 Evaluate the importance of biodiversity*
B.12.8 Relate the impact of human activities in ecosystems* to the natural process of change, citing examples of succession,* evolution,* and extinction (see SC Earth and Space Science)
B.12.9 Evaluate ways in which technology has expanded our ability to alter the environment and its capacity to support humans and other living organisms
Natural Resources and Environmental Quality
B.12.10 Identify and evaluate multiple uses of natural resources* and how society* is influenced by the availability of these resources
B.12.11 Assess how changes in the availability and use of natural resources* (especially water and energy* sources) will affect society and human activities; such as, transportation, agricultural systems, manufacturing
B.12.12 Evaluate the environmental and societal costs and benefits of allocating resources in various ways and identify management strategies to maintain economic and environmental sustainability* (see SC Earth and Space Science)
B.12.13 Analyze how different political and governmental systems manage resource development, distribution, consumption, and waste* disposal (see SS Political Science and Citizenship: Power, Authority, Governance, and Responsibility)
B.12.14 Investigate how technological development has influenced human relationships and understanding of the environment B.12.15 Describe changes* in the rates of human population growth in various societies and the factors associated with those changes* related to economic and environmental sustainability*
B.12.16 Analyze how natural resource* ownership and trade influences relationships in local, national, and global economies (see SS The Behavioral Sciences: Individuals, Institutions, and Society)
B.12.17 Explain the concept of exported/imported pollution;* e.g., smokestacks, watersheds, and weather systems
B.12.18 Analyze cause and effect relationships of pollutants and other environmental changes* on human health
B.12.19 Illustrate how environmental quality affects the economic well-being of a community
B.12.20 Debate the risks of producing pollutants
B.12.21 Research the roles of various careers related to natural resource* management and other environmental fields (see SC Applications) B.12.22 Research individuals who have made important contributions to the field of resource management (see SC Nature of Science)

Content Standard: Students in Wisconsin will be able to identify, investigate, and evaluate environmental problems and issues.

Rationale: Solving environmental problems and issues requires skills in environmental investigations. These skills, in turn, provide students with opportunities to apply and improve their capacity for systems thinking and their understanding of a sustainable world and society. Focusing on environmental issues offers students a means of integrating their knowledge of human and environmental systems and a way of finding personal relevance in that knowledge.

By the end of grade 4 students will:
C.4.1 Identify environmental problems and issues (see SS Political Science and Citizenship: Power, Authority, Governance, and Responsibility) C.4.2 Apply ideas of past, present, and future to specific environmental issues (see SC Connections) C.4.3 Identify people and groups of people that are involved in the issue C.4.4 Identify some of the decisions and actions related to the issue C.4.5 Identify proposed solutions to the issue and discuss arguments for and against the issue
By the end of grade 8 students will:
C.8.1 Define and provide examples of environmental issues,* explaining the role of beliefs,* attitudes, and values* (see SS Political Science and Citizenship: Power, Authority, Governance, and Responsibility) C.8.2 Use environmental monitoring techniques; such as, observations, chemical analysis, and computer mapping software to collect data about environmental problems* (see LA Media and Technology; MA Measurement) C.8.3 Use questioning and analysis skills to determine beliefs, attitudes, and values held by people involved in an environmental issue C.8.4 Evaluate the credibility of information, recognizing social, economic, political, environmental, technological, and educational influences (see LA Writing)
By the end of grade 12 students will:
C.12.1 Compare the effects of natural and human-caused activities that either contribute to or challenge an ecologically and economically sustainable* environment (see SC Nature of Science) C.12.2 Explain the factors that contribute to the development of individual and societal values* (see SS The Behavioral Sciences: Individuals, Institutions, and Society) C.12.3 Maintain a historical perspective when researching environmental issues;* include past, present, and future considerations (see SC Connections) C.12.4 Identify the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to investigating an environmental issue* and identify some of the assumptions for each approach

Source: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Science Accessed 15 July 1016. http://dpi.wi.gov/science/standards