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

The  EIC Model™ in Rural Schools--Summary of Programs and Examples of Success


Please note: Many more school stories and summaries of recent data are available in Dr. Lieberman's new book Education and the Environment: Creating Standards-Based Programs for Schools and Districts.


Georgia
Stewart Quitman High School - Lumpkin, GA
     Stewart-Quitman High School (SQHS) is located south of Columbus in the small rural town of Lumpkin. The county per capita personal income in 1999 was $18,744, as compared with $27,324 for Georgia and $28,546 for the United States. Between 1996 and 2000, the Stewart County school system reported an average high school dropout rate of 11.4% for students in grades 9-12. Statewide, this rate is 6.8% for the same period of time. The surrounding communities had no industry and few opportunities for students who graduate.
     The SQHS EIC Model™ team's first effort was an investigation of local waterways with ninth grade students. The teachers felt the best way to address Stewart-Quitman's high drop out rate was to keep the ninth graders together from class to class and peak their interest in school through lessons that took them beyond the classroom and into the community.
     The students used maps to trace the Chattahoochee River's path from its headwaters near Helen, through Stewart County, and finally to the Gulf of Mexico. They also traced all of the streams in Stewart and Quitman counties that feed the Chattahoochee. With topographic maps, the students identified their stream watershed and the river watershed. The students also worked with staff from their community partner, the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, to monitor the water quality of local Hodchodkee Creek. In the third phase of the investigation, students used the Internet to research how the Chattahoochee River is impacted on its journey through Atlanta, Columbus, and Stewart and Quitman counties, and how these concerns have been addressed since the enactment of the Clean Water Act. The students shared their knowledge on the local watershed with students from across the U.S. Four team members represented their class, and the state of Georgia, at the Youth Watershed Summit in Edgewater, Maryland.
     Future EIC Model™ community-based investigations may study the current and future impact of tourism on southwest Georgia through community partnerships with Florence Marina State Park, Providence Canyon State Park and Westville, a living history village. Students conducted field studies and improvement projects at the community partner sites, and representatives from the organizations regularly visited the school. In partnership with the Georgia EIC Model™ team, the Captain Planet Foundation rewarded ninth graders who excelled in the SQHS EIC Model™ program. Students who met the criteria and were eligible to participate in one of three Junior Internships the following summer. They developed resumes, participated in interviews and were hired to work for six, 20-hour weeks at Florence Marina, Providence Canyon or Westville.
      Some of the observed successes of implementing the EIC Model™ program at Stewart-Quitman High School included:
• Collaboration (within the school) - Internally the needs were great but through participation in the EIC Model™ teachers began to collaborate: e.g., enjoyed shared planning, common goals and increased contact with students as a result of interdisciplinary community-based investigations. As teachers worked closely with students on relevant investigations, they observed increased ownership by students in their own learning;
• Collaboration (within the community) - Teachers and students began to see the community in a new way. As students identified environment-based issues to investigate, they built key relationships with community partners. These community connections helped students by providing background information, resources and logistical support. These types of community connections led to real service-learning opportunities for students.
• Community-based Investigations - As the ninth grade students and teachers investigated the local community, they used local natural and community surroundings for learning as a context for interdisciplinary standards-based learning. The EIC Model™ "real world" approach was new to Stewart Quitman and  provided students with meaningful opportunities for learning.

Armuchee Elementary School - Rome, GA
     Armuchee Elementary houses grades three to five and is located in northern end of Floyd County. Once wooded and rural, the community continued to change. Students watched their community change. The EIC Model™ teams challenged the students' to observe how rapid development affects the natural systems in their area, and the quality of life for the citizens of their community.
     Some of the observed successes of implementing the EIC Model™ program at Armuchee Elementary School included:
• Collaboration (within the school) - In a school of individuals, the Armuchee teachers have seen successes for students and teachers that have resulted from collaboration. This collaboration process is evidenced in teacher collegial planning and administrative support.
• Collaboration (within the community) - Teachers were willing to interact with community, inviting them into the school to work with students and staff on community-based investigations.
• Community-based investigations built on standards-based learning as students identified and solved community issues, e.g.:
• Third Grade - the class defined the components of rural, urban and suburban communities, identified these components in their county, noted how changes take place and some effects of those changes.
•  Fourth grade - students studied the flora and fauna on their campus, which led to discussions about the loss of habitat. As students voiced their concerns, they were interested in their role in protecting the environment. Students learned about the legislative process and embarked on a project to name the Green Tree Frog as the Georgia State Amphibian.
•  Fifth grade - students studied local water issues based on the convergence of three rivers in their community.
• Vision - Success with students, teachers, and community member encouraged the Armuchee staff to expand their EIC Model™ vision to reach more students through articulated programs and increased community support.:

Midway Elementary - Milledgeville, GA
     Midway Elementary School is located in Milledgeville, in Baldwin County. The school is situated adjacent to the Bartram State Educational Forest. Midway serves students from a low socioeconomic level and has a large "at risk" population. The EIC Model™ team consisted of Kindergarten, 2nd grade and a K-3 emotional-behavioral disorder teacher, a gifted teacher, the Assistant Principal and the Principal. Students in these teachers' classes were exposed to interdisciplinary instruction and the inquiry process for the first time. The results of students' studies helped them understand the benefits of preserving natural resources in their community.
     Some of the notable benefits of implementing the Midway EIC Model™ program included:
• The Principal and the team used the EIC Model™ to work together to address standards through investigations using their own campus;
• Midway's educational leadership had a strong belief in the value of engaging students through the natural settings; they believed in its potential to "hook" students into learning;
• There was increased collaboration among EIC Model™ team teachers;
•  In the 2003-2004 school year, more of the EBD teachers' students passed the CRCT test than ever before;
• The Kindergarten teacher discovered the value of science inquiry as she observed what the students were getting from their active learning. She encouraged science inquiry and increased her use of the community beyond the classroom walls and outside the classroom door;
• There was an increased willingness to involve the community in the education process. Some of Midway's community partners included: Georgia Forestry, Georgia College & State University, and the Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center.
• Midway's EIC Model™ teachers have participated in ongoing professional development with Georgia Conservancy's "Native Seasons" curriculum, Project WILD, and the University of Georgia's State Botanical Gardens "Garden Earth" collaborative.
Idaho
     
The EIC Model™ Coordinator was the executive director of the Idaho Environmental Education Association and works closely with the Science Coordinator at the Idaho Department of Education.
Salmon Alternative High School - Salmon, ID
     In Salmon, alternative high school students studied Kids Creek, a spring-fed stream that flows through their school grounds. They explored effects of the human community on the creek and, in turn, the creek's effect on their valley community. Their findings were presented to the community via a front-page article in their town's newspaper.
     Some of the notable benefits of implementing this creek-based EIC Model™ program included:
• "Blossoming" of apathetic students in the course of this highly relevant, yet demanding community-based investigation;
• Development of a comprehensive interdisciplinary unit involving scientific research, historical perspectives, creative and technical writing;
• Exposure of the high school students to a variety of careers related to the unit of study;
• Authentic application of content standards evidenced by student work and assessment products;
• Involvement of a variety of community members, including Salmon's mayor, scientists and local fisheries personnel; and,
• Positive interaction of high school students, acting as instructors, with elementary school learners.

Valley View Elementary - Bonners Ferry, ID
     In Bonners Ferry, students of Valley View Elementary used the EIC Model™ as a framework for studying the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. Findings from student investigations were incorporated into the design and construction of a 30-acre wetland at the refuge. Their plans incorporated goals of healthy habitat for wildlife, educational and recreation uses by humans, and a steady water supply for the city of Bonners Ferry. A 4,000-acre wildfire on the refuge watershed provided expanded and modified teaching opportunities, especially as it serves as the drinking water source for most Valley View students. The wetland will continue to be an outdoor classroom, as it is adjacent to a newly-dedicated environmental education center.
     Some of the observed successes of implementing the EIC Model™ program at Valley View included:
• Documented gains in student achievement - trends in standardized test scores are beginning to emerge;
• Students acquired skills in conducting scientific investigations, including asking high-level questions, seeking evidence, systematic observation, analyzing evidence, and reporting findings;
• Students' social skills and enthusiasm for learning improved;
• Expansion of the EIC Model™ team, moving toward becoming a school-wide model instructional team consists of teachers, a coach, an administrator, and a statewide coordinator; and,
• Empowerment of students to direct their own learning, driving the development of an investigation of wildfires, which led to a revegetation service project.

Iowa
     
The EIC Model™ Coordinator was a Science, Math, and Environmental Education Coordinator with Iowa State Department of Education.
Red Oak Middle School - Red Oak, Iowa
     Red Oak, Iowa is a small town with primarily an agricultural base. In 2002, the Red Oak Middle School had a population of more than 297 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students with about 25 teachers.
     A seventh grade interdisciplinary team including the Principal and a community partner from the Montgomery County Conservation Board were trained in the EIC Model™. The team worked with their students to develop a community-based investigation to observe how Red Oak Creek was affected by the surrounding community. The students established five testing sites from the source of the Creek, through town, to where it flows into the East Nishnabotna River. During the following two years students visited testing sites once a month, collected data, and monitored the water quality of the creek. In the course of the study students discovered a local Superfund site was having an impact on the creek water and contacted the EPA about how they could get involved in monitoring the site. The students presented their EIC Model™ investigation and their water quality data to the Chamber of Commerce, Iowa Association of State School Boards, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and, they made a presentation at a Science, Math and Technology Conference at the state capitol in January 2005. They planned to continue their water quality tests as a service-learning project.
     Some of the observed successes of implementing the EIC Model™ program at Red Oak Middle School included:
• The Red Oak Middle School Principal was the prime motivator for involvement in the EIC Model™;
• Interdisciplinary instruction, environment-based learning, and service continued to be the main school foci;
• Student behavior and attendance improved significantly;
• Special Education students were more engaged and motivated in learning;
• Students acquired skills in conducting scientific investigations, including asking high-level questions, seeking evidence, systematic observation, analyzing evidence, and reporting findings;
• Students' social skills and enthusiasm for learning improved;
• Community partners worked directly with teachers and students on a regular basis;
• Parental and community involvement increased as the students have gone into the community to learn;
• In November 2004, Red Oak Middle School Seventh Grade Interdisciplinary team received the Iowa DNR Youth Award for its "integrative learning program." Students continued to use math, science, history, writing, art, geography, and other disciplines to monitor and advocate water quality in their community.

South Carolina
     
The EIC Model™ Coordinator was the Environmental Education Consultant with the South Carolina State Department of Education.
Long Middle School - Cheraw, South Carolina
     The 7th grade team at Long Middle named their EIC Model™ program CREEK (Creating Responsible Environmentally Educated Kids). During the first year of the program the 7th grade team developed an investigation to look at impact of human activity on the creek in a local community park. Administrative support was high and strong efforts were made to identity local community organizations and individuals who could provide resource and logistical support for student learning and service within the community. The Long Middle School team aligned community-based instruction to grade level standards, and worked toward direct connections between standards, assignments and assessment.
     Some of the benefits of implementing the CREEK Program included:
• Educators documented gains in attitudinal measures of behavior and attendance:
• 7th grade teaching team helped to expand the program to the entire sixth grade;
• Students were very enthusiastic about their hands-on field studies. Students reported their CREEK year to be the best school year they had experienced. Students observed and testified to the benefits of having teachers working together, as creating a family atmosphere at school;
• Students reported seeing the connection between their subject areas as they used the out-of-doors to do math and to write about their educational experiences.

Gilbert Middle School - Gilbert, South Carolina
     In Gilbert Middle School, the 8th grade team of teachers and students developed an EIC Model™ community-based investigation that focused on how local social systems can affect the health of their wetland. Their "Warriors for the Wetlands" program incorporated interdisciplinary instruction and community-based investigation to increase student learning and service to the community. As a result of their learning students strengthened language, math and science skills. Two mentors, one from the Wildlife Federation and the other from the Department of Natural Resources, supported teachers and students during their investigations. Gilbert Middle School worked toward full-school articulation of the EIC Model™ which addressed additional grade level standards and extend service-learning possibilities to restoration, preservation, and the impact of the wetland on the larger watershed.
     Some of the benefits of implementing the "Warriors for the Wetlands" Program included:
• Students demonstrated academic improvement - individual GPAs shoed improvement;
• Slight improvement in attitudinal measures was documented;
• Gilbert Middle School was recognized by a town resolution for their wetland work;
• The 8th-grade team built a wetland on campus for the community to use and enjoy; and,
• Teacher collaboration, parent participation and community support increased.

Pickens Middle School - Pickens, South Carolina
     The educators at Pickens targeted a challenging 7th grade student population - those ranked "below basic." These students also had severe behavioral problems. The team decided to focus their EIC Model™ investigation on how the Pickens community could plan for the future use of the Town Creek Trail. Each lesson in the investigation was planned so as to meet at least one grade level standard in a particular discipline, using the Trail as the context for the activity or discussion. Through the investigations the participating Pickens' students: measured the length of the trail, investigated and identified flora and fauna on and around the trail, uncovered historical railroad spikes and related them to the history of Pickens, constructed topographical maps of the trail by learning to use GPS technology. They wrote poems, journal entries, narrative and expository pieces reflecting their learning, listened to local historians sharing their past experiences in the Pickens community and what role the trail had played over the years, and constructed benches and distance markers along the Trail to encourage positive use and preservation of the Trail by the community.
     Some of the observed successes of implementing the EIC Model™ program at Pickens included:
• Test scores on the PACT (the state's standardized assessment tool) indicated that 6% of involved students moved from "below basic" to "basic" during a one-year period;
• The number of behavioral referrals decreased by 36% since implementing the program;
• When compared to the previous school year, the study population spent 22% more time in school since implementation of the program;
• Students were involved in 20 field study experiences - these walking field excursions were police escorted which led to the fostering of positive relationships between the students and Pickens' law enforcement officers;
• There was a marked increase in parent participation and communication with the school and staff; and,
• Pickens received a service-learning award for building an outdoor amphitheater.

State Education and Environment Roundtable
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Last update 11/1/2013