What is Environmental Action Civics?
Environmental Action Civics is an approach to teaching that helps young people learn by connecting their lessons to their own experiences and communities, and by practicing the skills and dispositions of citizenship. Students investigate their community, identify issues they care about, develop plans to improve the community, and put those plans into action.
We often give the example of recycling. We can teach our students to recycle at home. This will (likely, but not always) result in students growing up thinking recycling is a helpful thing to do. This is not harmful! But, what if instead of teaching individual good habits, we taught young people how to investigate their communities and address issues they find? Then we can achieve two goals: broader, lasting environmental change and the creation of citizens who can solve environmental problems throughout their life.
Students in Wentzville did just this. Jaclyn and her classmates fought to ensure multi-family housing in Wentzville, MO had access to recycling. They started by analyzing data generated from a series of city surveys about litter and recycling rates. Not only was the amount of litter in their town increasing, the recycling rate was decreasing. And the City of Wentzville had no plan to engage the growing number of people living in multifamily residences.
The students worked with a local Home Owners Association and the City of Wentzville to draft a Multifamily Recycling policy impacting all new construction, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Aldermen.
This is what we advocate: bringing civic problem-solving into environmental and STEM education.
Do you think this is a valuable approach? How could you integrate this approach into your work? Let us know in the comments.