Drawing from 25 years of experience and a wealth of research on effective STEM education, youth development, and civic engagement we have created a tool, the Community Action and Problem-Solving Process, that combines the hands-on education that young people need to understand environmental issues with the civic experience they need to engage in civic action.
Earth Force supports schools as they are working to meet the changing needs of their students. Earth Force programs support schools as they work to meet three needs:
STEM – Schools across the country are working to change how they teach middle school science. Gone are the days when science was taught as a recitation of facts and educators are working to adapt their methods to incorporate more active learning. Our approach embeds content within an active learning framework to help education make this transition. 72% of the educators we have worked with say the program helped them create more authentic, active learning experiences for students.
Civic Preparation – Through Earth Force students get a first-hand experience at being an active member of their community. Students study problems in their community, develop solutions, and work with local leaders to turn their ideas into real changes.
Career Preparation – Earth Force students develop the skills that are necessary for the jobs of tomorrow. Students learn to apply problem solving tools in situations where there is no simple answer. Businesses from a wide variety of areas have identified problem-solving skills as the number one attribute they are looking for in employees.
The result is young people who have experience apply STEM concepts to develop solutions to community problems. They then use that knowledge as they starting point for a civic action project. Our strategy is to focus on three levers of change:
In 2017, Earth Force surveyed a broad range of education agencies and found that though are all interested in project-based education, few schools have been successful in implementing that model. To fill this need Earth Force has developed a school support program that includes educator professional development, capacity building for schools, and implementation planning at the school district level to support school systems as they incorporate civic-based action projects into their STEM education programs.
There are thousands of organizations using some form of environmental education in the across the country. Those organizations are reaching millions of young people each year. Earth Force is helping organizations incorporate civics into their existing programming via an annual train-the-trainer event.
Each year thousands of young people are taking action to improve the environment. Earth Force is committed to increasing awareness of the positive environmental impact of projects driven by young people. To promote the achievements of young people Earth Force is the host for the Chesapeake Bay Caring for our Watersheds contest and the Colorado based Rocky Mountain Environmental Challenge.
Theory of Change
We often hear the question, “How can educating young people be the answer to global environmental issues?” And, while it is true that middle school students are not going to eliminate pollution this afternoon, it is also true that they are the key to any long-term solutions society may hope to enact. By giving young people the opportunity to develop their understanding of the environment and the skills they need to bring that into the civic realm we ensure that communities are ready to face the generational environmental challenges they face. The following graphic outlines our Theory of Change: