Provincial Curriculum Development update from the BCTF
Transforming Curriculum and Assessment update from the Ministry of Education
EEPSA priorities for the curriculum revision include:
-Better represent environmental understanding in the curriculum
-Better align the learning standards with the rationale & goals that support place-based knowledge & First Peoples Principles of Learning
-Review the effect of proposed changes on multi-grade classrooms and examine the linkages between grades
Thoughts on the new K-9 curriculum
EEPSA has provided feedback to the BCTF regarding the redesign and first drafts of the K-9 curriculum. Teachers have been asked to visit the ministry site to provide their feedback.
What do we think?
Below are some complied thoughts from the EEPSA executive, members and our expanded network of environmental educators.
First of all, teachers are encouraged by the emphasis on a placed-based approach and connection to First Nations. Also welcome is the idea behind the new Core Competencies and Big Ideas, which are meant to give greater autonomy to teachers.
They got it right in the Science Overview, and Goals and Rationale (at https//curriculum.gov.bc.ca), which show the meaning and intended goals for the proposed changes. The Rationale speaks to developing citizens with a caring and responsible disposition, and an understanding of the social, ethical, and environmental dimensions of issues.
- A major problem with the Core Competencies and Big Ideas as seen throughout the draft, is that it is not evident how the goals set out in the Science Overview are to be achieved. The grade specific draft curriculum lacks alignment to these over-arching goals. Opportunities for place-based education and ecological learning are lost, while some of the core competencies and content are placed at inappropriate age levels.
- Specifically, there lacks an inclusion of ecological literacy throughout the grades. The exclusion of ecology from certain grades, and de-emphasis on environmental and biological sciences, results in a lack of direction or way forward for teachers hoping to achieve the over-arching goals set out in the overview. A clear and explicit continuum of big ideas and content standards focused on ecology would better serve teachers and learners. Ecology provides learning foundations for the expression and enactment of personal and social responsibility in place-based, community-connected ways.
- In the current draft, the ecology progression effectively ends in Grade 3 with the study of interdependence/ interconnection. Classification and adaptations in Grade 1 are at a basic level and need to be revisited in later grades (previously done in Grade 6). These inquiries need to be followed up in Grades 4-7 when students can think more deeply and conceptually. The current draft does not allow for this.
- Complexity and systems thinking need to be addressed more fully through a focus on ecology. A complexity/systems continuum should include age-appropriate, focused inquiry into such key concepts as habitat and communities in late primary, ecological principles in intermediate and ecosystems in upper intermediate.
- A focus on the theory of evolution in Grade 7 to frame biodiversity is limiting; biodiversity needs a much fuller treatment at multiple grade levels. Ecosystem-level inquiries are strongly recommended at the Grade 7 level to explore biodiversity (among other big ideas).
- Some key scientific concepts regarding environmental issues, if not omitted completely, have been shifted to inappropriate grade levels. For example, the study of weather, previously covered in Grades 4 or 5, is now seen in Kindergarten. Again, we see lost opportunities to provide students with real life examples of instrumentation and “the observable application of basic physics and chemistry” (Andrew Weaver), bringing science alive and making it relevant.
- The Grade 8 curriculum draft lacks any detailed reference to ecology in the big ideas or core concepts and content. Biology and Earth/Space science core concepts have been greatly diminished, and replaced with a much larger focus on physics (kinetic molecular theory, atomic theory, wave model and optics). This again, reduces opportunities for place-based learning and student relevancy.
- The Water Systems Unit within the current Science 8 curriculum appears to also be omitted. This unit provides a cohesive way to connect with place, sustainability, local first Nations and global considerations. Removing Water Systems from the curriculum represents lost opportunities for effective place-based approaches such as connecting students with to local fish hatcheries, walking from stream to sea within their local ecosystem to examine how waterways shape our community, and looking at how we can sustainably manage our use of this valuable resource for the future.
- Sustainability as a big idea is critically needed as a frame for learners to think, communicate and act responsibly re. the social, ethical, and environmental dimensions of issues. Inquiries in Science are fundamental to exploring and understanding sustainability.
- Links to (and content from) the Environmental Learning and Experience curriculum framework recommended.
If there are other specific examples that you feel should be included, please share with us! We’d love to hear what EEPSA friends and members have to say about these first drafts. Contact us via email or visit our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/eepsa.bc
A big THANKS goes out to the EEPSA members who provided their thoughtful feedback and to our larger network of environmental educators (Catherine McEwen, Andrew Weaver) for sharing their well-articulated letters of concern to Minister Fassbender, excerpts of which can be seen above.
For more information, see EEPSA’s recent support for the Sierra Club’s Petition to promote environmental education in the new curriculum.