Thursday, September 24, 2020

DCNR: Having Strong Environment & Ecology Education Standards Critical To Developing Career Opportunities & Good Stewards Of PA’s Environment, Natural Resources

On September 23, the
Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council was given a presentation on the new, proposed Department of Education Science, Environment, Ecology, Technology and Engineering Education Standards that drive what students in Grades K to 12 are taught in Pennsylvania.

Jean Devlin, a Natural Resource Program Specialist for DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, provided an overview of how the new proposed standards were developed and how critical they are to developing good stewards of Pennsylvania’s environment and resources and career opportunities for students.

“...(I)f something is a mandated standard it will be assessed, and therefore it will be taught. So if there is a subject matter that is not mandated it probably is not going to be assessed, and chances are very unlikely it will be taught,” said Devlin.

The standards are also used to design curriculum materials for students and help guide what educators are taught to teach.

Devlin said the state’s existing Environment and Ecology Standards were formally adopted in 2002 and made “...Pennsylvania a leader in education.  We have become the best practice that other States look to to have separate standards for environment and ecology.”

[Note: The Environment and Ecology Standards were part of a broader initiative by the Ridge and Schweiker Administrations to deepen and coordinate environmental education efforts for students and people of all ages.

[It included creating an interagency, interdisciplinary PA Center for Environmental Education based at Slippery Rock University created by Gov. Ridge through an Executive Order in 1996 and then in law by Act 71 of 2008.  Funding for the Center was eliminated in 2011.

[Some of the functions of the Center were later picked up by the PA Association of Environmental Educators.]

Devlin said the Department of Education began developing the new proposed education standards in September of 2019 with an emphasis on STEM education, science, technology, engineering and math.

That process resulted in the Board of Education approving a set of three proposed education standards on September 9 for public review--

-- Grades K-5: Integrated Standards for Science, Environment, Ecology, Technology & Engineering

-- Grades 6 - 12: Integrated Standards for Science, Environment & Ecology

-- Grades 6 - 12: Technology and Engineering Standards

Click Here for copies of the standardsClick Here for a separate report on standard recommendations.  

“...(A)lthough the talk was to incorporate the E&E [Environment & Ecology] standards into science standards, these proposed standards that passed the Board of Education's approval have next to no environmental [and] ecology in them and there is no direct standard for climate change in those standards,” said Devlin.

“So we still have some work to do in infusing environment and ecology into science standards [which] really is contrary to current best practices that are followed by other States, such as Maryland, Wisconsin, Washington and California,” said Devlin.  “Pennsylvania was a leader that others looked to as a role model because we had separate ones and they followed suit.” 

The proposed standards will now go through a public review process involving a comment period and reviews by the General Assembly and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, just like a regulation.

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn told the Council, “... (T)he outcome of having environmental ecology blended with science and technology would be a lot of our mission area would be lost to teaching incoming students.

“The bulk of DCNRs work is more in environment [and] ecology, also important aspects of agriculture, integrated pest management, managing the landscape, whether it's forestry or agriculture and ecological work.”

“We depend on the students of today learning science environment, ecology, environmental civics, getting involved and real hands-on practices in agriculture and forestry and recreation and management.”

She pointed out these students become not only agriculture, forestry, recreation and environment and ecology professionals, they become the good stewards of Pennsylvania’s resources and environment in the future.

Dunn said she will be meeting with the new incoming Secretary of Education in the near future to discuss this issue and encouraged the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council to become involved in this critical issue.

Visit the Department of Education’s Environment & Ecology Standards webpage for more information.

For more information and available handouts, visit DCNR’s Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council.  Questions should be directed to Gretchen Leslie at 717-772-9084 or send email to:

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[Posted: Sept. 24, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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