What Makes Learning at Green Woods Different?
The SEER and EIC Modeltm
When a handful of parents got together and decided to start a new school, they wanted a unique model of education – one where students could be engaged, teachers inspired, and the community could thrive. The Green Woods community found that the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning (EIC Modeltm ) fit their plan, and the program was implemented. They saw the 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, as valuable. 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. Over the next 12 years, this model was used with success.
In 1996 The State Environment and Education Roundtable's (SEER) staff and partnering state departments of education began developing the EIC Modeltm 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 Modeltm .
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.
To Be Sustainable, Change is Essential
Green Woods outgrew their previous space at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, constructing a new building that opened in January of 2014. At the same time, technology had begun to surge forward – in 2004 few teachers had cell phones at Green Woods, but by 2014 students did! So when the State Comprehensive Plan and Charter renewal were due in the fall of 2016, Green Woods looked at gaps in the curriculum, where student learning had begun to slip, and what was happening in the world, and realized that EIC’s core principles – integrated interdisciplinary learning and community based investigations - were solid and should continue, but overall, the school needed to shift their model to enable Green Woods students to excel AND fully meet the goal of creating stewards of the natural environment.
So Green STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) was laid over the EIC methods that were working well, and as the EIC Modeltm requires certification from SEER, the official use of EIC was dropped from the plan. The Green STEAM model advances the core concepts of sustainability and environmental education through incorporating the latest technologies and providing state-of-the-art tools, techniques, lesson plans, and modalities. The Green STEM school model is sponsored by the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) and other organizations. “Green STEM” is built upon a body of research that consistently shows students engaged in environment-based subjects in school will out-perform students who are not participating in environmental programs. Green Woods students have shown strong performance on PSSAs, and this program will continue and even improve that performance. The inclusion of the A for Arts in the Green Woods framework is key as science informs art and art informs science. Green Woods believes student artistic expression is critical for the advancement of each student and ultimately, of society.
A New Framework
In addition to the incorporation of technology and project-based learning through Green STEAM, Green Woods has fully embraced an internationally recognized framework upon which to hang Green STEAM for the students and community – Eco-Schools. This program, managed in the USA by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), allows schools to share their projects, programs and successes on a national platform. Eco-Schools follows the scientific method – measure, hypothesize, test – and a sound project management model - review, plan, implement, test, modify – to empower the school community to make a difference. It is flexible enough for Green Woods to engage students at all grade levels and enables the students to choose where they wish to implement positive change for the environment (and their health!) - at school, home, and/or in the community.
Students don’t know “pedagogy” or “modalities,” they come to school to learn. Eco-Schools is something they can understand and then use to drive their own learning. It affords them the opportunity to see how they are a part of a larger community, and to connect to other students around the world. They communicate their work through Eco-Schools and then become teachers themselves. This peer-to-peer learning strengthens their knowledge - and they may see it only as “having fun!”Click here to see an example of a Green Woods Unit of Study.
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.