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EE = STEM

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EE STEMIn my current position at an environmental nonprofit, I’ve learned that a majority of society doesn’t understand what environmental education actually means. As a professional that has worked in the realm of STEM education for over 10 years now, I was surprised to learn that many people don’t immediately see the connection between environmental education and STEM education. Maybe that was my lack of understand in regards to the stereotypes that exist around environmental education. I’ve since learned that to most, the term environmental education signals tree hugger/over enthusiast that doesn’t live in a factual world. The over indulgence of some well-meaning environmentalists seems to have taken over environmental education the same way that religious extremists have misrepresented their faiths. Here’s what I see environmental education is through my current lens. First, environmental education (EE) is the perfect combination of civics and science. It uses scientific principals and applies them to human society including our impacts on our surroundings. Civics by definition is the study of the rights and duties of citizenship. Science by definition is systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. This combination of rights and duty with knowledge of the physical and material world is the way¬†to create 21st century skills and problem solvers in the next generation. Speaking of next generation, the latest common core standards and next generation science standards seem to hack away at the core issue we face in education in the USA, that we are creating students that memorize for tests rather than fully understand concepts and utilize them to problem solve. When dissecting STEM into¬†science, technology, engineering and math, I can fully see how EE plays a crucial part. Science is the fact grounding, technology and engineering are the solution builders and math inserts the statistics that let us know we are going down the right path with consistent results. Therefore EE uses each of the STEM topics in combination, a rarity in education. Many people are influenced for many reasons to not consider the environmental sciences as valid. I would argue that environmental science is the future. Not only helping us solve issues like drought and climate change but also helping create the next generation of creative, holistic thinkers who are responsible environmental stewards.

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