Blog | National Geographic, Heal the Bay Team for Environmental Literacy

3rd-8th grade teacher guides debut statewide after pilot program in Santa Monica, L.A.

As part of a state-mandated program to promote environmental literacy in California students, Heal the Bay and National Geographic today unveiled innovative teacher resources that the groups hope will be adopted by school districts statewide.

The regional nonprofit and global education giant are now making Environmental Literacy Guides that cover the topics of fresh water, ocean, energy and climate change available at no cost to all K-8 classrooms throughout California.

Heal the Bay and National Geographic Education announced the result of their partnership during Heal the Bay’s eighth annual Coastal Cleanup Education Day, a lead up event to the upcoming Coastal Cleanup Day on September 15.

Approximately 700 elementary students from underserved communities arrived at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for environmentally focused games, lessons and activities. These future environmental stewards—many of whom had never visited the ocean before—explored the beach, got up close and personal with the living species in the Aquarium touch tanks and even cleaned up the beach.   

Heal the Bay sponsored the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI), a ground-breaking state law enacted in 2003 that requires instructional materials for  Kindergarten through 12th grade to integrate various environmental principles and concepts with traditional academic standards. The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) now manages the program. 

Heal the Bay contracted with National Geographic Education to create Earth’s Fresh Water, One Ocean, Changing Climate and Energy Potential, teacher guides and videos that provide third- to eighth-grade educators with background knowledge and curriculum on topics from feedback loops in global cycling systems and ocean currents to alternative energy solutions and sustainable fisheries.

“These guidebooks are designed to give teachers up-to-date information about environmental topics, allowing for integration of this engaging and important content into classrooms across California,” said Kathleen Schwille, National Geographic Vice President for Educational Design and Development. “The support of our partners and funders has allowed us to provide these resources free to educators.”

The guides have been tested in classrooms in California and Washington, D.C., and were used as the basis for a successful pilot EEI professional development project with teachers in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and middle schools in the Venice Family of LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District).  The pilot program was funded by Annenberg Learner, Heal the Bay and National Geographic and with the help of Google and USC Sea Grant education professionals. 

“Cal/EPA is pleased that so many agencies and organizations have come together to help implement this landmark law,” said Cal/EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. “EEI will help California students learn about their relationship with the environment and will prepare them to become future economists, scientists and green technology leaders. By working together, we can all better support teachers’ engagement in environmental education.”

As part of the One Ocean Program, Santa Monica-Malibu USD teachers worked collaboratively to develop environmentally focused lesson plans.  They used the EEI curriculum, Google Earth, Annenberg Learner, National Geographic and other electronic resources to create a variety of hands-on learning experiences for students. Heal the Bay will continue to partner with SMMUSD in the 2012-2013 school year to support EEI implementation in the district. 

“While the guides are written for upper elementary to middle school teachers, they are so accessible that I feel I could recommend them to all elementary to high school teachers, and everyone would get something out of them,” said Heal the Bay Education Director Tara Treiber. “We’re really so thrilled to be able to offer such an amazing resource to educators everywhere.” 

The guides were made possible via generous funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Southern California Edison, Clean Harbors Environmental Services and Annenberg Learner, and present a unique investment in teachers’ ability and confidence in teaching environmental education. 

“These extraordinary professional development guides fill a large void in California’s Environmental Education Initiative. Thanks to this unusual public-private partnership, there are now visually compelling, teacher-friendly, comprehensive guides on oceans, water, energy and climate change,” said Mark Gold, former President of Heal the Bay and the guiding force behind their creation.

The guides are available as PDF documents on the National Geographic website (http://natgeoed.org/eei). 


About Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean.  We use science, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.


About National Geographic Education

National Geographic Education is the educational outreach arm of the National Geographic Society. National Geographic Education brings the rich resources of the Society to its audience of educators and learners as part of its mission to prepare young people to care for the planet. National Geographic Education creates educational materials for young people and the adults who teach them, conducts educational programs for educators and advocates for improved geographic education. Under the auspices of the National Geographic Education Foundation, it has awarded more than $80 million in grants to support efforts to improve geography education in the United States and Canada. For more information, visit NatGeoEd.org.

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