EIC LEARNING IN ACTION!
The EIC Model can be a challenging concept for
those wanting to design and implement school-wide
integrated learning focusing on the environment.
As a nationally recognized model school for
implementing EIC, our 4th grade year provides just
one outstanding example of how well we do what we do,
and the success we achieve as a result.
Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning
In using the Environment as an Integrating Context for learning (EIC), Green Woods has had continued success engaging students, inspiring teachers, improving test scores, and closing the achievement gap. At Green Woods, the environment is used as a comprehensive focus and framework for learning in all areas: general and disciplinary knowledge, thinking and problem-solving skills, and basic life skills, such as cooperation and interpersonal communications. EIC-based learning is about using a school's surroundings and community as a framework within which students can construct their own learning, guided by teachers and administrators using proven educational practices.
Student's Active Role in Solving Real World Problems
Green Woods' students continually apply what they learn in their classrooms to the real world and the outdoor environment. Both inside and outside the classroom, students work collaboratively as they gain important 21 Century skills necessary to take an active role in solving issues that affect them, their homes, their schools, their communities, and the environment.
A Groundbreaking Study
In 1996 The State Environment and Education Roundtable's (SEER) staff and partnering state departments of education began developing the EIC Model with major support from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The process began with a two-year study of schools in each of SEER's partner states. This research culminated in the 1998 publication of Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment As an Integrating Context for Learning.
This groundbreaking study represented the first ever analysis of the efficacy of using environment-based learning as a means of improving student achievement. SEER used this research, with its evidence of "best practices," as the basis for developing the EIC Model.
This model focuses on improving students' standards-based learning by bringing together six key instructional practices:
- integrated-interdisciplinary instruction that breaks traditional boundaries between disciplines;
- community-based investigations as learning experiences that offer both minds-on and hands-on experiences through service-learning opportunities;
- collaborative instruction so teachers, parents, students, and community members can connect together instruction and learning;
- learner-centered, constructivist approaches adapted to the interests, needs, and unique abilities of individual students;
- combinations of independent and cooperative learning; and,
- local natural and community surroundings, as the "context" for connecting together these proven pedagogies, to improve teaching and learning.
Environment-based Education Strategy
During the past 17 years there has been substantial success developing and implementing the EIC Model. SEER developed this environment-based education strategy with the specific goal of improving student performance on state and district academic content standards, in large part as a result of increasing students' engagement in their education. Twelve state departments of education, from across the United States, were involved in all stages of the development and implementation of this model including: an in-depth study of environment-based programs in 40 schools to assess the benefits to students and teachers; design of its pedagogical framework; formulation of program evaluation instruments; articulation of a comprehensive professional development program; and implementation of the program in 16 states.
The educators at Green Woods began to develop their EIC Model program in 2004, when Jean Wallace was brought to the school as the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction. She and the teachers worked to develop their program with the active support of Dr. Patricia Vathis, a founding member of SEER, who recently retired from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The History of Green Woods' EIC Model
Green Woods' years of success have demonstrated that the instructional strategies which comprise the EIC Model allow teachers and students to simultaneously achieve the school's two principal goals— achieving academic excellence and developing environmental stewards. The EIC Model is used as the overarching instructional model, with Green Woods' teachers continually revising the school curriculum, which they themselves developed. Across grade levels and disciplines, the teachers carefully and purposefully use the environment as a context for weaving together instruction into a sound academic framework.
In addition to traditional academic content, the team's curriculum planning ties in specific environmental content, technology skills, and the experiences students need to become active participants in their communities. Further, the teachers create a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor learning opportunities in locations near the school—this ensures that students learn about the environment by being in the environment and captivates their awareness of and interest in their surroundings. This approach to instruction gives students a solid foundation, constructed from integrated, inquiry-based learning experiences and ultimately guides their future development and success.
Green Woods Replicates Its Success
But the success of Green Woods does not end in Philadelphia. The Green Woods EIC program and its staff assisted in the successful chartering of two schools in Pennsylvania: The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park in Pittsburgh, PA, and Seven Generations Charter School in the Lehigh Valley. Educators from Harvard to Bermuda, from New York to Overbrook Farms in Philadelphia have also looked to the Green Woods EIC Model as a program to replicate.
To learn more about the SEER study and the National EIC focus, contact Dr. Gerald Lieberman at Gerald@seer.org.
Click here to see an example of a Green Woods EIC Model Unit of Study.