Tips for Programs: Schools

Tips for Working with Schools

school_image002_006_tips-for-schoolsMany natural resource professionals and nonformal educators spend a considerable amount of time working with schools and developing school programs. Establishing yourself as a reliable source for environmental education takes time and effort. The following offers a few suggestions to get you started. They are in no particular order. 

  • Make appointments to meet with the principal.  Your presentation should include how your suggested activities can correlate to the academic content standards, especially science. 
  • Make one good, enthusiastic contact in a specific grade or class, other than the administration.  This person will help promote your programs by positive word-of-mouth advertising.Provide an in-service presentation at the school highlighting the services you can provide for the classroom.  This can be done before or after school, or for a local teacher in-service day. You might demonstrate a groundwater model or do a short activity out of Project WET.
  • Host teacher workshops either during the school year or in the summer.  Provide college credit for these workshops if at all possible.  Attending Project WET, Project Learning Tree, or Project WILD, facilitator workshops will help prepare you to host teacher workshops.  Working with a local teacher allows for a division of the work and twice the creativity for the workshop.
  • Develop an education newsletter to distribute to teachers.  This is a good way to get information out about your programs.
  • Be as helpful as possible when visiting a classroom.  If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, admit you don’t, but make sure you find the answer and report back.
  • Make it known that you are willing to help local schools with special events such as science fairs, science days, or earth day events.  If your school district, city or county has a listing of resource people for these events, get your organization ’s name added to the list.  This is a great way to make new contacts and allows teachers to see your interaction with the students.
  • Above all, establish your organization as a reliable source for natural resource information.  Keep commitments you set and do a quality presentation when asked to visit a school.  The opportunities are endless for organizations that have good working relationships with their local schools.

Academic Content Standards

Science teaching is a complex activity that lies at the heart of the vision of science education presented in the Standards. The teaching standards provide criteria for making judgments about progress toward the vision; they describe what teachers of science at all grade levels should understand and be able to do.

National Science Education Standards, National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, National Research Council, 1996

Over the last decade, national professional education associations have pushed to develop national standards and encouraged states to draw from these as they develop state specific standards.  For science education, the National Research Council, along with the National Academy of Science and the National Science Teachers Association, wrote a set of recommended content standards (1999).  Additionally, political groups are pushing for standards that will address accountability issues.  No Child Left Behind of 2001, the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, requires states to implement statewide accountability systems, based on challenging state standards, covering all public schools and students.

Contact your state’s department of education or public instruction to learn more about the science education standards that local teachers work toward. Then correlate your program activities to both the national and state education standards to help teachers envision how your program can help them meet their goals and objectives.

In Spring 2013, the National Research Council, the national Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve have completed the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards on based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education described above and identifies what K-12 students should know about science.