Date of Award

2016

First Advisor

Katie Boswell

Second Advisor

Thomas Coote

Third Advisor

Sarah Snyder

Abstract

Western Massachusetts’ middle school science curriculum can be improved to enhance students’ environmental literacy. If we assume a young person’s degree of environmental literacy can dictate the ways in which she or he will conceptualize and make decisions about current environmental issues, then by teaching students how other people and communities have come to know and understand nature in respect to these environmental concerns can help shape a student’s awareness of the environment and cultural diversity. Therefore, a person’s environmental literacy is built on knowledge and awareness of their local environment which affects their actions and behaviors concerning the planet. Private schools of western Massachusetts have programs that integrate environmental education into their science curriculums for middle and high school students. The analysis of these distinctive programs and teaching methodologies can shape our understanding of how improvements can occur in western Massachusetts’ public schools to enhance their environmental science initiatives. Public school science teachers can introduce seventh and eighth grade students to case studies, which exemplify how people relate to and are affected by the environment. Case studies which speak to long term research and show how communities either in the United States or elsewhere tackle environmental concerns can increase students’ environmental literacy, because it can show them how environmental science impacts the social, economic and political aspects of society. This thesis will explore how using a cross-cultural and lively perspective through case studies can begin to enhance the science and environmental literacy of the students to show how an interdisciplinary approach to environmental education can make scientific concepts more accessible to students.

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