Best Practices Guide

Best Practices

Best Practices for Excellence in… Environmental Stewardship Projects

1. Environmental Education…
Hands-on inquiry-based learning
Authentic science practices
Learning activities that meet required curriculum standards

2. Environmental Benefits…
Promote understanding of environmental concepts and issues
Restore, improve or enhance management of habitat
Give children roles as care-takers and problem-solvers

3. Sustainability…
Long-lasting value
Eco-friendly practices
A plan for continuation
An organization that is capable and resilient

Best Practices for Excellence in… Projects Supported by Captain Planet Foundation Grant Funds

  • Integrates outdoor learning with curriculum standards in environmental education (and multiple disciplines)
  • Provides opportunities for students to be engaged in authentic science practices
  • Features hands-on learning experiences
  • Promotes inquiry-based learning; encourage students to use curiosity, problem-solving skills and critical thinking
  • Incorporates environmental stewardship projects, where students apply what they learn to real-life solutions
  • Feasibile to accomplish the project given the timeframe, expertise, budget and circumstances
  • Longevity and lasting value, with emphasis on durable purchases with grant funds
  • Sustainability, evidenced by matching funds, community support, and a plan for continuation after the grant
  • Reduces waste, adapts and re-purposes materials, purchases recycled products, lessens adverse impacts
  • Demonstrates cost-effectiveness
  • Produces measurable outcomes
  • High impact, affecting a significant number of children and improving the state of the environment
  • Replicates proven success; innovate for local circumstances
  • Managed by an organization that is capable and resilient
  • Contributes to the repository of “best practices” that Captain Planet Foundation can share with others

Best Practices for Excellence in… Planning or Revitalizing a School-wide Environmental Education Program

  • Survey teachers to identify interests in and barriers to teaching outdoors
  • Begin wherever you are and take stock of what you’ve got. Do a site inventory to identify assets as well as needs
  • Get buy-in before creating a program or building facilities; get feedback from teachers, administrators, custodians, grounds crews, cafeteria staff, students, parents, community partners, waste and recycling services
  • Look at successful outdoor learning programs to get ideas and become inspired
  • Know what has worked and not worked at other schools: Planning First, to Make Your Outdoor Classroom Last
  • Use results of your Survey to set priorities and make a long term Master Plan, to include
    • any physical improvements needed
    • environmental education activities to engage students
    • environmental stewardship projects for students to complete
    • maintenance and continuation
  • Tackle the Master Plan in phases: bite off only as much as you can chew and leave the rest for later
  • Create a curriculum team to integrate outdoor learning with state standards and provide resources for teachers
  • Generate support for your program including funds, volunteers, donated or used materials
  • Start small; evaluate effectiveness of the program; retool and make changes as necessary
  • Roll with the punches; find ways to improve and continue the program despite inevitable set-backs
  • Institutionalize your environmental ed program by building it into the school’s mission

Best Practices for Excellence in… Environmental Education Lessons

  • Lessons feature hands-on learning activities that engage every child
  • Learning activities are rigorous and meet at least one required curriculum standard
  • The environment provides a context for studying science, math, social studies, English, engineering, nutrition
  • Learning activities are inquiry-based and curiosity-driven
  • Students do authentic science and engineering
  • Activities take place outdoors
  • Critical thinking and arguing from evidence show students how (not what) to think
  • Students apply knowledge to design and carry-out a real-world stewardship project for each lesson or unit
  • Assessment tools are provided to measure student gains against a benchmark
  • Teachers have an opportunity to evaluate, adapt, and improve lesson materials