Evaluating strategies for inclusion of environmental literacy in the elementary school classroom

Kathryn T Stevenson, Sarah J Carrier, M. Nils Peterson


Although elementary school may be a prime stage for building environmental literacy, elementary school teachers face significant barriers to including it in their instruction.  Several studies have identified teachers’ limited ecological science content knowledge and heavy emphasis on state standards and testing as common constraints to environmental literacy instruction.  However, few of these studies have measured actual (versus perceived) ecological knowledge or focused on how teachers are successful in including environmental literacy instruction despite constraints of standards and testing.  The present exploratory study surveyed 627 randomly selected elementary school teachers in North Carolina to begin addressing this gap.  We found ecological knowledge levels were high (89.9% average score).  Lack of instructional time was the most oft-listed barrier to environmental literacy instruction (76.7%), followed by lack of resources (53.4%), whereas lack of content knowledge was rarely mentioned (21.6%).  Respondents identified access to environmental literacy-related lesson plans, activities that integrate children’s literature, and access to and training in published environmental education curricula as the resources needed to be more successful in inclusion of environmental literacy concepts in the elementary school classroom.   


environmental literacy; professional development; pedagogical content knowledge; elementary education

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