Education and the Environment Book

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The EIC Model™
Environment as an Integrating Context for improving student learning

Frequently Asked Questions About the EIC Model™

Background
Q: What is the EIC Model™?
A: The EIC Model™ is a research-based instructional strategy that uses the Environment as an Integrating Context for standards-based K-12 instruction.


Q: What is the underlying concept behind the EIC Model™?
A: The EIC
Model™ uses a school's surroundings and community as a context for standards-based instruction. Research indicates that this strategy more actively engages students than traditional approaches to teaching and, at the same time, prepares them to face the challenges of modern society and be active members of their community.

Q: Who developed the EIC Model™?
A: This instructional model was developed by the State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER).


Q: Is the EIC Model™ research-based?
A: Yes, SEER based the design of this instructional model on extensive research that dates back to a 40-school national study that was completed and published in 1998. Subsequent studies by university researchers, as well as SEER, have strongly supported the results of the initial study.

Q:Do SEER and the EIC Model™ have credibility at a national level?
A:
The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (now the National Environmental Education Foundation) gave SEER a Special Recognition Achievement Award for its work “bringing environmental learning into the mainstream of American K-12 education.” In 2002, the Education Commission of the States included the EIC Model™ in its listing of programs and practices that schools use to accomplish comprehensive reform.

Q: How did SEER get started?
A: Established in 1995, with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts, SEER was founded as a cooperative endeavor of 12 state departments of education and eventually grew to include 16 states.

Q: What does SEER do?
A: All of SEER's work is focused on promoting and supporting “Environment-Based education” (EBE) in K-12 schools. Over the past 18 years, SEER has provided professional development to teachers from over 700 schools across the U.S.

Local Environment and Community
Q: How does the EIC Model™ relate to our local environment, surroundings, and community?
A:
Exploring the local environment and community are at the center of the EIC Model™. Students, guided by their teachers, conduct a variety of “community-based investigations” that give them the opportunity to study the world around them enabling them to learn about the environment (natural systems) and the people and communities (human social systems) where they live.

Instructional Practices
Q: What are the instructional practices within the EIC Model™?
A:
The EIC Model™ brings together six key instructional practices:

Local Natural and Community Surroundings as Context (more than a venue) for connecting together these proven pedagogies, to improve teaching and learning;
Community-based Investigations with Opportunities for Environmental Service-Learning that provide learning experiences that offer both minds-on and hands-on experiences through service-learning opportunities;
Integrated-Interdisciplinary Instruction that breaks down traditional boundaries between disciplines;
Learner-Centered, Constructivist Approaches adapted to the needs and unique abilities of individual students;
Collaborative Instruction so teachers, parents, students and community members can connect together instruction and learning; and,
Combinations of Cooperative and Independent Learning that promote collaboration among students while encouraging individual students to maximize their potential.

Standards-Driven Instruction
Q: What does it mean to teach using the environment as an integrating context?
A: The EIC Model™ helps students achieve proficiency with standards by teaching them in the context of their local environment and community. This approach has at its core three major goals: helping students achieve success with academic content standards; developing their understanding of interactions between natural and human social systems; and preparing them to be active members of a civil society with the skills they need to identify and resolve environmental and other community issues.

Q: Does the EIC Model™ use a pre-prepared curriculum?
A: No, teaching teams at each school develop their own EIC Model™ curriculum units. Although this is a time-consuming process, it is the only way to develop an instructional program using a school’s local environment and community as the context. Equally important, this process provides teachers with the opportunity to teach their state/district-specific academic standards.

Q: How does the EIC Model™ relate to our state/district standards for English/language arts, math, science, history/social studies, and others?
A: Typical EIC Model™ instructional units incorporate standards in English/language arts, math, science, and history/social studies and, as appropriate, other content identified by the teachers. The EIC Model™ is based on integrated-interdisciplinary instructional practices, as such it addresses selected standards in each of the major disciplines. When developing their instructional units, the teachers work together to design instructional activities that can be effective in teaching multiple subject areas.

Q:
Will the EIC Model™ help our students prepare for our state’s standardized tests?
A:
A variety of studies have demonstrated that students learning in the context of the environment are successful at achieving proficiency with state/district standards.

Q:
When a school implements the EIC Model™ do teachers stop teaching art, music, physical education, technology, or other specialized content?
A: Implementing the EIC Model™ does not necessitate that a school reduce instruction in other content areas. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate art, music, physical education, technology, and other content into their EIC Model™ units. For example, they can bring in art by giving students an opportunity to present what they have learned through drawings, murals, and musical presentations.

Q:
Is the EIC Model™ helpful to students with a wide range of skills and abilities?
A:
The out-of-classroom and hands-on activities that are built into many EIC Model™ units can help students who may not succeed in a typical classroom setting. These activities provide diverse students with alternative ways to learn and to demonstrate what they have learned.

SEER’s Support of Schools/District’s
Q: What does SEER do to support the development and implementation of EIC Model™ programs?
A: Initially, SEER provides teachers and administrators with a four-day EIC Model™ Implementation Institute. This institute provides school teams with the skills and tools they need to develop their own EIC Model™ units. Subsequent to this professional development, SEER provides schools with ongoing technical support through on-site visits, as well as telephone, email, and videoconferencing. This regular communication allows SEER’s team to help the school and individual teachers make “midcourse corrections” so they can continuously improve their program. Each year, SEER also conducts a program evaluation and makes recommendations regarding ways to improve the program.

Program Evaluation
Q: How does SEER evaluate implementation of EIC Model™ programs?
A: Program evaluation is an integral component of implementing every successful school improvement system. SEER employs a series of well-established evaluation methods to gather both formative and summative data concerning each school’s progress toward implementing the EIC Model™. SEER’s staff uses its specialized evaluation instruments to monitor each school’s progress.

rainbarState Education and Environment Roundtable
13648 Jackrabbit Road
Poway, California 92064
Telephone: (858) 676-0272
Fax: (508) 462-8331

Founding Sponsor The Pew Charitable Trusts 

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The "EIC Model™" and "using the Environment as an Integrating Context for
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Last update 5/1/2014