Closing the Achievement Gap

Using the Environment as an Integrated Context for Learning

Can integrating the environment into K-12 curricula improve student learning? This is the basic question the State Education and Environment Roundtable, a cooperative endeavor of education agencies from twelve different states, posed and studied. The goal of the study was to determine if environment-based education programs can improve student learning and influence the way students learn to live successfully in the world that surrounds them. The study was designed to identify the most innovative and successful environmentally integrated programs, determine their effectiveness, and analyze similarities and differences of the programs and how each contributed or posed challenges during implementation.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning – is the Executive Summary of The Roundtable’s study report. It focuses on a specific area of environmental education: Using the Environment as an Integrated Context for Learning (EIC - a term coined by The Roundtable). EIC-based learning, incorporates aspects of learning about the environment and works to develop environmental awareness, but the main focus is to use the environment and surrounding community as a framework for all areas of learning; general and disciplinary knowledge; thinking and problem solving; and life skill building including cooperation and communication.

The study found that EIC programs offer a lot of benefits across the educational spectrum, including better performance on standardized tests in reading, math, science and social studies; reduced discipline and classroom management issues; a greater level of student engagement and an enthusiasm for learning; and a greater pride and ownership in their accomplishments.