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Connecting With Nature

An Educational Guide for Grades Four to Six

Elementary, Middle

Description

Students in grades 4-6 engage in a series of activities(both inside and outside the classroom) designed to inspire a sense of environmental stewardship. Each of the activities is intended to have children explore their profound connection to nature and experience the power of individual and collective action.

Students explore the daily choices, they,their families, their school and their communities make; the impact of those choices on nature; and the role they and others may take in protecting nature.

The activities are fun, hands-on, and thought provoking. Students have opportunities to share what they are learning with their fellow students, family, and community and to create their own “class foundation” to collectively act on their concerns and passions. 

The resource consists of 16 cross-curricular lessons on a range of issues from which teachers may select according to the dictates of their time and curriculum.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The resource helps students develop the skills associated with system thinking, as each of the lessons therein focuses on the exploring the interconnections or interdependence within nature and the impact of human activity on nature.     

Strengths

The underlying pedagogy of the resource is do/learn/act. Each lesson begins with an activity that has both an outdoor and indoor component, followed by reflective discussion on what was observed and continues with suggestions as to what may be done to illustrate or share the understanding gained.

The lesson format is consistent throughout the resource, the aim clearly articulated and the lesson procedure outlined step by step. Background information for the teacher and student is relevant, age appropriate and easily accessible.

The resource is particularly innovative in its efforts to engage the student's family in what is being studied so that the school, the home and the community are not treated as separate silos.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The resource has been developed for students in grades 4-6. Teachers will have to judge the grade appropriateness of any lesson plan since certain lessons are more sophisticated/demanding than others. 

The resource is most relevant for science and social studies teachers but will help address a number of outcomes in Health, Language Arts and Math 

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 4
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences
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        • Health and Life Skills: Wellness Choices
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        • Patterns & Relations
      • Science
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        • Plant Growth and Changes
        • Waste and Our World
    • Grade 5
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        • Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
      • Math
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        • Patterns & Relations
    • Grade 6
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        • Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
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        • Health and Life Skills: Wellness Choices
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        • Patterns and Relations
  • British Columbia
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        • Comprehend and Connect
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      • Math
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        • Regular changes in patterns can be identified and represented using tools and tables
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        • Comprehend and Connect
        • Create and Communicate
      • Math
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        • Identified regularities in number patterns can be expressed in tables
    • Grade 6
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        • Comprehend and Connect
        • Create and Communicate
      • Math
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        • Linear relations can be identified and represented using expressions with variables and line graphs and can be used to form generalizations
  • Manitoba
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        • Explore Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings, and Experiences
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        • Habitat and Communities
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        • Manage Ideas and Information
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        • Patterns & Relations
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        • Explore Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings, and Experiences
      • Math
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        • Patterns and Relations
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        • Diversity of Living Things
  • New Brunswick
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        • Social Studies: Exploring our World
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        • Wellness
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        • Patterns and Relations
    • Grade 6
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        • Patterns and Relations
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        • Diversity of Life
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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        • Reading & Viewing
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        • Health: Environmental Health
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        • Patterns & Relations
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        • Habitats
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        • Exploring Our World
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        • Health: Environmental Health
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        • Patterns & Relations
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        • Patterns and Relations
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        • Diversity of Life
  • Northwest Territories
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        • Comprehend & Respond
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        • Patterns & Relations
    • Grade 5
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        • Comprehend and Respond
      • Math
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        • Patterns & Relations
      • Science
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        • Energy and Control: Conservation of Energy
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        • Explore Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings and Experiences
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        • Statistics and Probability
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        • Life Systems: Diversity of Living Things
  • Nova Scotia
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        • Math 4: Patterns and Relations
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        • Social Studies 4: Humans and the Physical Environment
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        • Mathematics 5: Patterns & Relations
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  • Nunavut
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    • Grade 4
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        • Comprehend & Respond
      • Math
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        • Patterns & Relations
    • Grade 5
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Comprehend and Respond
      • Math
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        • Patterns & Relations
      • Science
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        • Energy and Control: Conservation of Energy
    • Grade 6
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Explore Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings and Experiences
      • Math
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        • Patterns and Relations
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        • Life Systems: Diversity of Living Things
  • Ontario
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    • Grade 4
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  • Prince Edward Island
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        • Exploring Our World
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        • Reading and Viewing
        • Speaking and Listening
        • Writing and Other Ways of Representing
      • Math
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        • Patterns and Relations
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Reading and Viewing
        • Speaking and Listening
        • Writing and Other Ways of Representing
      • Math
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        • Patterns and Relationships
      • Science
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        • Diversity of Life
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
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    • Grade 4
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Comprehend and Respond
      • Math
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        • Statistics & Probability
      • Science
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        • Habitats and Communities
    • Grade 5
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Comprehend and Respond
      • Math
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        • Mathematics 5:Patterns and Relations
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canada: Resources and Wealth
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
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        • Comprehend and Respond
      • Math
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        • Mathematics 6 : Patterns and Relationships
      • Science
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        • Science 6: Life Science: Diversity of Living Things
  • Yukon Territory
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    • Grade 4
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        • Oral Language (Speaking and Listening)
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        • Health and Career Education: Health
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        • Patterns & Relations
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        • Life Science: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
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        • Oral Language (Speaking and Listening)
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        • Health and Career Education:Health
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        • Patterns & Relations
      • Science
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        • Earth & Space Science: Renewable & Non-Renewable Resources
      • Social Studies
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        • Canada – From Colony to Country: Human & Physical Environment
    • Grade 6
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      • English/Language Arts
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        • Oral Language (Speaking and Listening)
        • Reading and Viewing
        • Writing and Representing
      • Health & Career Planning
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        • Health and Career Education: Health
      • Math
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        • Patterns & Relations
      • Science
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        • Diversity of Life
      • Social Studies
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        • Canada and the World: Human and Physical Environment

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (4)

    • Community-Building and Participation
    • Ecological Footprint
    • General Guide to Taking Action
    • Sustainable Consumption
  • Ecosystems (5)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Biodiversity
    • Carrying Capacity
    • Habitat Loss
    • Interdependence
  • Energy (3)

    • Alternative Energy
    • Energy Generation
    • Energy Use
  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Local Food
  • Human Health & Environment (2)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
    • Quality of Life
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (2)

    • Planting Native Species
    • Transportation
  • Waste Management (4)

    • Composting
    • Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
    • Solid Waste Disposal
    • Source Reduction
  • Water (1)

    • Water Use

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The lesson plans reflect the mission and vision of the David Suzuki Foundation that "Canadians act on the understanding that we are all interconnected and interdependent with nature." This view is almost universally accepted and is central to the concept of sustainable development. The activities in the resource are intended to provide specific illustrations of this perspective.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

While recognizing the interplay among the environment, the economy,and society (typically represented by three intersecting circles of equal size), the assumption of the resource is that a larger circle should represent the biosphere, and within that a smaller circle representing society and a still smaller circle to represent the economy so as to illustrate the limits of growth imposed by the biosphere.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The central theme of the resource is that everything in nature is connected. The individual lesson plans are designed to help students understand the consequences of our actions by applying the analytical skills associated with systems thinking. What are the consequences if we use private rather than public transportation; if we eat local foods rather than those imported from great distances; if wants always trump needs.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Very Good

Each of the activities includes the following components

. Taking it further - this section includes different activities that students can do to extend the activity

. Community/home engagement -allows students to engage in the topic outside the classroom and share their knowledge of nature with those around them

. Class Foundation - provides students with a template for organizing a Foundation that would identify and act on issues of interest.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

Most of the activities/lesson plans require students to explore the impact their choices/ behaviour (water and energy use, transportation options, diet,) have on nature. In examining the options and the effects of any choice students must consider what is important to them. The subsequent choices students make in real life should be informed by their heightened understanding and the opportunity to clarify their values resulting from the lesson.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

Fostering empathy and respect for humans is somewhat peripheral to the focus of the resource, which is to explore the impact of human actions on the natural world of which they are part. However, recognition is given to the larger issue of justice in analyzing the inequities that exist due to the unequal sharing of the earth's resources -an understanding of which is a pre-requisite to developing a sense of empathy for those whose lives are a daily struggle for the basics of life. 

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Very Good

The introduction to the resource makes reference to the term biophilia - our need to affiliate with other species and our curiosity about the natural world.. Accordingly,connecting children with nature in their every day lives is a central goal of the resource and each of the lessons therein capitalizes on this curiosity by encouraging students to get outside. 

Reference is also made to studies that indicate that spending time outside helps with recall and memory, problem solving and creativity.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

In each of the lessons the classroom, the school or the community serves as a local laboratory for beginning the students investigation of the question posed by the lesson. This may involve a class hike, creating a class landfill, undertaking an energy audit in the school or at home, or encouraging action to address a perceived need in the school or community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

The typical lesson starts with a guiding question intended to have students explore a current practice or policy - what happens to nature if we always pursue our wants and never consider living within our needs? or how does the water we use everyday affect the planet? This leads naturally to a consideration of the future and what we might do to bring about positive change.

The underlying assumption is that we all play a part in making change in our everyday actions and choices and in doing so can shape the future. 

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Each of the lessons, in accordance with the inquiry-based approach, begin with a "guiding question" that students are expected to answer after completing the lesson; ie. What happens to nature if we pursue our wants and never consider living within our needs?

Also included in each of the lessons is a section entitled "What's the point" that outlines the overall message and provides a summary of the ideas that may emerge during the lesson; ie. the desire for things we don't really need is driving us to live beyond the limits of nature.

Some may suggest that this represents a dichotomy in that the answer to the Guiding question is anticipated in Whats the point? The terminology used in What's the point, however, is similar to that found in most curriculum documents wherein student outcomes, understandings or values are identified.     

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Each of the lesson plans is aligned to the grade 4-6 curriculum and a typical lesson plan will include elements relevant to a number of course such as Arts, Health and Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts or Math. 

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Most of the lesson plans involve guided activities in which the students make observations, record information, discuss and arrive at conclusions/generalizations. The guided activities include hikes, games, surveys and simulations and are sometimes supported by background readings, available as either handouts or on selected websites.in particular the David Suzuki Youth and Nature site.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Very Good

Each of the lesson plans include an "Optional class activities" section. These may be used to supplement or replace the main lesson plan. The suggestions therein provide such a considerable pool of ideas that teachers will find activities that are appropriate for a variety of student interests and abilities.

In combining a range of 'hands -on' activities, background readings, and possible actions, the primary lesson plans also recognizes the different learning styles that exist in the classroom 

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

Each of the lessons begins with an activity  - a hike, garbage collection, a search for pollinators, a survey of species found in the schoolyard, a green energy hunt - followed by discussion and analysis of what the students observed/concluded and the implications of those conclusions.

Many of the "Taking It Further" suggestions require students to undertake additional activities that extend the learning.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Typically, the lessons involve class discussion of what was observed or learned as a consequence of a focused activity. In certain lessons - water use, cosmetic product analysis, the components of the greenbelt - students are organized into teams or groups to research and share relevant information. 

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Very Good

Each lesson includes a "Suggested Strategies for Assessment" section (found in the Appendix.) that often refers the teacher to the

. Learning Skills Checklist,

. Achievement Chart,

. Self Assessment model

.  Arts rubric and the Oral communication rubric

.  the Peer assessment/self assessment rubric 

The section on Reflective questions provides opportunities for formative evaluation while the Taking it further  section may be used on occasion for summative evaluation.  

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

A number of lessons have students share their findings/conclusions or projects with the others students in their class or school and considerable attention is given to having students discuss what they are learning at school with their families. 

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

The starting point for investigating each lesson's guiding question is most often to have students look at what is happening in their immediate surroundings, whether it be the waste generated by their class,the pollinators found in their school ground, the energy or water they and their classmates consume in school and at home,or their food choices. The school or the community are approached as a laboratory where guided observations lead to learning and understanding of the interconnections of nature.  

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The lesson plans are structured so as to have students consider a guided question. Students begin their investigation of the question by observing what is happening in a given situation, followed by class discussion intended to draw out student perspectives on the issue. The locus of control to this point is the teacher. Addition components of the lesson plan such as Taking it further, Community/ home engagement activities, and optional class activities allow students a degree of autonomy in further exploring the issue or acting on their new understandings.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.