Scaling up education for earth stewardship
Shifts in the health of ecological and human communities have inspired increasing calls for earth stewardship to promote long-term sustainability and resilience of interconnected human and ecological systems. Although earth stewardship initiatives exist within various professional societies, nongovernmental organizations, and the United Nations, we have much to learn about developing effective mechanisms to foster earth stewards. Such mechanisms would help citizens understand central issues, develop skills, and become inspired to apply their skills and passions to supporting the health of human and/or ecological communities. Perhaps no social institution is better poised to foster such understanding, skills, and inspiration amongst the citizenry than the formal education system. In this presentation, we report on a Michigan-wide education initiative called Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform (MiSTAR), which is designing, training educators for, and testing an integrated science curriculum for the middle grades that addresses 21st Century Challenges and is aligned with education reforms called for by the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education. We explore whether and how an educational curriculum designed around 21st Century Challenges and aligned with the Framework may influence motivation for earth stewardship. MiSTAR is funded by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
A curriculum developed around 21st Century Challenges and aligned with the Framework may support earth stewardship by exploring issues of ecological health within a framework that also addresses issues of social and economic concern, shows interrelationship among these issues and their solutions, relates to students’ lived experiences, and reflects responsible citizenship. Science curriculum as envisioned by the Framework provides a platform for extending the reach of at least two factors that both support earth stewardship and can be influenced by formal education – understanding of issues and critical thinking skills - particularly when implemented in ways that integrate the science disciplines to address real-world problems and solutions. To effect change in student motivation toward earth stewardship, key considerations include: encouraging skills through positive feedback on scientific practice (rather than only content knowledge) throughout the educational process, increasing emphasis on students’ affective (feeling or attitudinal) development; and fostering teachers’ engagement, inspiration, and empowerment. Teachers’ pedagogy and attitudes may have a strong relationship with changes in student motivation.