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Eco-Friendly: Summer Programs Integrate Environmental Themes in Curriculum
Posted 6/9/22

environmental books

This summer Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) is offering expanded programs with Summer Academies to support student learning through extended instructional time. 

New this year, the curriculum created for the Elementary Summer Academy in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math will include environmental education throughout the five-week program.

The environmental education focus emerged as the Curriculum and Instruction Department (C&I) was developing the summer program. As staff brainstormed the STEAM activities that were integrated into the curriculum, they decided to have environmental themes integrated throughout the curriculum. 

“Our Board of Education set goals for our district to develop students’ climate literacy,” said Superintendent CJ Cammack, referring to Resolution No. 030-2021, adopted in May 2021 to declare FUSD’s commitment to educating students on climate change and climate solutions. “Preparing students with the skills to adapt and succeed in the future undoubtedly includes giving them the tools to understand environmental matters and contribute to climate solutions.” 

The Board also adopted “The Roosevelt Resolution” in February 2022, which outlines a commitment to transitioning to a zero waste to landfill entity. 

The Elementary Summer Academy’s overall environmental theme is “zero waste.” Grade bands will also have more specific themes reinforced through the books, activities and instruction: students entering 1st and 2nd grade in the fall will focus on water conservation, 3rd and 4th grades on resource conservation, and 5th and 6th grades will delve deeper into waste reduction and learn about matters such as fast fashion and littering.

Rising 3rd grade students will complete an outdoor tree observation activity – bringing learning outdoors during the summer session is a priority – then move into a lesson about how trees grow, including planting a seed and tracking and graphing its growth. 

“So now they have this connection to nature, understanding of why trees are so important from the books and the experiments, and then they’ll be creating a poster to educate others, so they’ll be doing a campaign on why it’s so important to save our trees,” said Jennifer Blenis Meehan, an instructional coach in C&I, who was part of the team that developed the Summer Academy curriculum. 

Writing prompts provided throughout the curriculum include options related to the environmental topics covered in books, which will be a mixture of fiction and nonfiction related to environmental education. 

“For Language Arts we want them to have informational books and fairy tales or things with magic in there,” said Blenis Meehan.

Over the course of the summer program, students will also do between three and five STEAM activities that relate back to their grade-level theme. For example, those rising 3rd grade students will also do an experiment about how trees create oxygen. 

“It’s setting a foundation for their future climate literacy as they become older, so the younger grades, we really want them to connect to nature, we want them to have a relationship with nature, and we want them to have a sense of ownership and power, so that as they start to learn more about the challenges, they’re invested in those challenges and they also realized they have a role to play,” said Nate Ivy, an instructional coach in C&I who is deeply involved in developing the larger framework for building students’ climate literacy in the C&I Department.

Blenis Meehan is hoping that the summer environmental education curriculum, books and resources become a foundation to build on. 

“The teachers doing summer school will be actively working on these different environmental education activities and readings, and maybe they’ll integrate this into their classroom,” said Blenis Meehan. 

Enrollment in the Elementary Summer Academies – located at Cabrillo, Durham, Gomes, Hirsch and Patterson elementary schools – is by invitation only, and is offered to specific students who may benefit from academic intervention. 

More Eco-Friendly news is posted on our website, and more stories are coming with updates on the amazing work being done in our school community.

Go to: FUSD News