Guest post by the National Environmental Education Foundation
In Chicago, students use a smart phone scavenger hunt app to learn about endangered animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo. In southeast Michigan, scientists and students interact through video streams and virtual fieldtrips to monitor local water quality. And at middle schools around the country, students can take actual photos of the Earth from cameras aboard the International Space Station.
Technology, sometimes seen as a distraction in the classroom, can actually inspire greater engagement in learning, especially when it comes to environmental science.
Research indicates that 77% of teachers believe using technology in the classroom increases student motivation to learn, while 75% of surveyed educators said students who spend regular time outdoors tend to be more creative and better problem-solvers. That’s why the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is marrying technology and the outdoors during National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), taking place from April 14-20, 2013.
EE Week is the nation's largest celebration of environmental education held each year the week before Earth Day to inspire environmental learning and stewardship. In 2012, EE Week kicked off a multi-year Greening STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative on the important role the environment plays in engaging students in STEM learning and helping them solve 21st century challenges. This year, EE Week will focus on Taking Technology Outdoors.
Providing students with opportunities to connect with and learn about nature through technology can also mean improved workforce readiness: The number of STEM jobs is expected to increase by 20.6% between 2008 and 2018, compared to 10.1% for all other jobs. A significant 71% of STEM jobs will be within the technology field.
The environment offers a perfect gateway to STEM learning through hands-on, real-world projects on topics like energy efficiency and resource conservation that incorporate all four pillars of STEM. Deborah Wasylik, 2012 Environmental Education Award Winner, noted, “When you teach environmental science, STEM is already integrated beautifully in the curriculum.”
NEEF provides these resources and case studies to support environmental projects that reinforce STEM learning during EE Week:
To learn more about the importance of environmental education, visit the EarthShare environmental education issue page. And to bring your own technology outside, download one of these green mobile apps from EarthShare member organizations.