Environmental Literacy                                        

      Michigan State University

Working Strands

Our work is organized into four strands, each representing an important part of school science curricula and of environmental science literacy

  • Carbon. Carbon-transforming processes in socio-ecological systems at multiple scales, including cellular and organismal metabolism, ecosystem energetics and carbon cycling, carbon sequestration, and combustion of fossil fuels.  These processes: (a) create organic carbon (photosynthesis), (b) transform organic carbon (biosynthesis, digestion, food webs, carbon sequestration), and (c) oxidize organic carbon (cellular respiration, combustion).  The primary cause of global climate change is the current worldwide imbalance among these processes.
  • Water.  The role of water and substances carried by water in earth, living, and engineered systems, including the atmosphere, surface water and ice, ground water, human water systems, and water in living systems.
  • Biodiversity.  The diversity of living systems, including variability among individuals in population, evolutionary changes in populations, diversity in natural ecosystems and in human systems that produce food, fiber, and wood.
  • Citizenship. Using scientific knowledge to make informed decisions about environmental issues

Aim of Project and Groups:

In formal science education, environmental topics are often covered in a disconnected way.  For instance, students learn about water in separate life, earth, and physical science units.  We believe that for students to be environmentally literate, they need to understand how interconnected systems support life on our planet. The purpose of this project is to design effective curricular and teacher support materials for teaching about life, earth, and physical sciences in a connected way.

What are MSU folks doing?

We are forming working groups with K-12 teachers and MSU researchers to explore students' understandings of science concepts basic to environmental literacy.  Working group topics include water systems, carbon systems, biodiversity, and human actions. 

What would K-12 teachers do?

Teacher participation could mean as little as giving a pretest and posttest to students.  We’ll supply answer keys highlighting big ideas and common misconceptions.  These keys can help you assess your own students’ environmental science understanding.

Other opportunities include…

Attending a fall and spring working group meeting (substitutes provided)

  • Sharing materials you use with other working group members
  • Working with the group to develop environmental science learning progressions

Teacher support includes substitutes for attendance of meetings, travel costs, and minigrants for supplies and materials!

Every year, we hold summer workshop at KBS (Kellogg Biological Station), Kalamazoo County. People with various education experience come to share their interests, concerns, approaches, and expectations. Please download 2008 KBS Workshop Handout and Presentation materials as following files.


2008 KBS Conference

Anderson, C. W. (2008, June). Learning Progressions for Environmental Science Literacy. (Handout) (Slides)


How can teachers join?

To join or learn more about this project, please contact envlit@msu.edu


Download logistic documents for group research:
  • Personal Services Contract, for teachers earning more than $599     (download)
  • ROLE Teacher Invoice form     (download)
  • REESE Consultant Invoice form     (download)