Environmental Education – Can it be taught in the Classroom?
In Environmental Education circles, teachers have debated whether one can teach environmental education in the classroom, or whether it can only be taught outside.
As a former teacher, I have to say: Both! The reality of budget and time constraints, waiver and permission forms do not always permit teachers to take full advantage of field trips, organized by outside organizations or by the teachers themselves. Obviously these are truly excellent learning opportunities and teachers should strive to include the in their lesson planning. Sometimes however, the curriculum demands don’t allow any extra time for field trips and in the high school setting, field trips often require students to miss other classes for that day, which is often frowned upon by other teachers.
If a teacher is committed to teaching environmental education, there are solutions. On-line environmental educational simulation tools even allow students to “see” aspects of the outdoors that you just can’t see when you’re on the ground.
For example, tools that use satellite imagery and GIS allow students to examine certain aspects of the environment that cannot be observed on a field trip. GIS allows us to project future land-use plans into the future, and integrate and analyze data that was collected by the students themselves or by someone else. On-line environmental education simulation tools also help teachers fulfill ICT or Information and Communication Technology curriculum objectives.
Alberta Tomorrow provides both: an on-line educational tool and an optional field trip. Teachers can take their class on the field trip to observe how land-use affects the ecosystem and collect water quality data that can be inputed and archived on the site. By locating their data collection points on the satellite imagery, students gain a different perspective of the area than they did on the ground. Their data can be viewed and used by others who are registered on the site.
Don’t get me wrong, technology will never completely replace the serenity of observing nature and learning about our environment first hand, however on-line environmental educational tools do provide an important learning opportunity that is effective and engaging for our technologically advanced students of today.
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