L.A. charter school adopts green curriculum
It's part of a new green curriculum the West Adams school will pilot this year -- lesson plans praised by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday as "educating the next generation of environmental stewards."
Stella is one of 20 early adopters embracing California's Education and the Environment Initiative, or EEI curriculum, which was developed by California Environmental Protection Agency after a 2003 law mandated it. Piloted in 19 school districts throughout the state in 2008 and finalized in January 2010, the EEI curriculum consists of 85 units for grades kindergarten through 12. The lessons were crafted meet the state's existing academic standards for science and history/social science while also teaching environmental literacy.
In kindergarten, for example, EEI uses a “Resources Bingo” game to show children the sources of their drinking water, with bingo boards showing natural resources such as rivers and teacher explanations on “where my drinking water comes from.” At the high school level, EEI teaches students why there is more water in northern California than in Southern California and explores the water transportation systems developed to supply fresh water.
"It's giving a new angle to material that's already being taught in our program," said Ari Engelberg, chief executive officer of Bright Star Schools, which operates Stella Middle Charter. "We're not an environmental charter, but the curriculum resonated with us because we do so much in the way of outdoor experiences for our students."
Engelberg said the school's 280 fifth- and sixth-graders often take field trips to national parks and participate in beach cleanups and walks and bicycle rides around the neighborhood.
One hundred schools throughout the state have adopted the EEI curriculum this year, said Lindsay VanLaningham, California EPA's deputy secretary for communication. Among the school districts that have adopted the environmental lesson plans are Santa Monica Malibu and Manteca.
Fully implemented, the EEI curriculum could reach more than 1,000 school districts, 9,900 schools and 6.2 million students in the state, VanLaningham said. Achieving that goal, however, is largely a matter of funding. Although the green curriculum is available online for free, teachers must be trained in the material and lessons printed. Cal EPA is working to form public and private partnerships to help fund the implementation of the curriculum in additional schools, she said.
-- Susan Carpenter
Photo: Students at Stella Middle Charter Academy. Credit: Elysa Vargas / Stella Middle Charter Academy