Keywords: environmental education, constructivism, environmental research, K12 science education, environmental awareness, community participation, Puerto Rico, elementary schools, public schools, suburban schools, cooperative learning, waste management, water resources, environmental perceptions
Environmental awareness through integration of research and education: a case study from two elementary public schools in Puerto Rico
This work integrated environmental education, science, technology and research in a fifth grade science curriculum in two elementary public suburban schools in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Results are presented of these collaborative teams between a graduate fellow and a fifth grade science teacher. The teams developed educational and scientific strategies using a constructivism approach that promoted cooperative learning, students' active participation and the integration of the school community. A month-long lesson on waste management and water resources was developed based on students' research on community environmental perceptions. Students' academic achievement in science was significantly improved by the implemented strategies, seen as a 50% increase in the number of excellent (A) and good (B) grades. Through this work, the students completed scientific research projects of environmental significance for their communities and presented them at the school's science fair and environmental day. The implementation of constructivism strategies along the integration of technology, and hands-on and minds-on activities promoted students' interest in environment and science.