Environmental Action Civics: What is it?
The environmental challenges our planet faces are, to say the least, complicated.
Solving them requires cooperation, most powerfully through local civic participation. Environmental Action Civics embodies the belief that participation in local environmental decision-making is critical to equitable processes, innovative solutions, and enduring democratic and civic skills.
Environmental Action Civics is a youth-centered, standards-aligned approach that guides students as they learn about their environment and gives them the opportunity to take civic action to address problems they find. See our CEO Vince Meldrum talk about it here.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
How does this align to the curriculum?
Environmental Action Civics is part of a larger pedagogical approach that centers students in their own learning and engages them through project-based learning. It addresses many skill-based standards including communication skills and literacy skills. In addition, it addresses many Social and Emotional standards such as collaboration, problem solving, and empathetic listening.
Won’t you get the same impact just by teaching Environmental Education?
No. Hungerford and Volk (1990) argued that educators too often assume a direct relationship between the acquisition of knowledge and taking action. In contrast to that assumption, while issue inquiry, field experience, and drawing conclusions are antecedents to stewardship, it is when students are asked to apply these experiences to develop and implement action projects that public engagement takes root. By focusing student projects on collective action Environmental Action Civics students come to understand how government systems work and what citizens can do to influence those systems. When young people learn to use tools of civic engagement, it becomes their method of choice for advocacy and engagement as adults (Levinson, 2014).
Why do you focus on middle school?
We focus on middle school because of the developmental transformations young people go through at that age. Young people first begin to develop the capacity required to understand their role within a community or civic system between 10-14. In those years, research shows young people begin to develop the strategic skills that serve as a gateway experience to developing the expertise needed to be effective change agents.
What is the process students go through?
We offer the Earth Force Process as a framework to implement Environmental Action Civics. It is a six step model that guides young people as they investigate their community, identify the root causes of problems, research the policy and practices that keep that problem from being addressed, and then work with their community to change those policies and practices. The Process is a six-step instructional model that combines the best of civic engagement, environmental education, and STEM education. The Process takes students through six steps:
Step 1 – Community Environmental Inventory
Step 2 – Issue Selection
Step 3 – Policy and Community Practice Research
Step 4 – Goal and Strategy Selection
Step 5 – Planning and Taking Civic Action
Step 6 – Reflection, Going Public, and Planning for the Future
Educators across the country use the Process to teach science, engineering, math, and humanities to their students.