Washington Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards
The Washington State K-12 Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards approved by the state legislature in 2009, describe what all students should know and be able to do in the area of Environmental and Sustainability Education. These standards are intended to be integrated into core content areas and across all grade levels.
Washington State has identified three broad overarching standards that are specific to Environmental and Sustainability Education. Unlike core content standards in Washington State, these standards do not include specific grade level expectations but offer a powerful framework for integrating other subjects, especially issues that overlap science and social studies. Additionally, the Standards align with the state’s Indian Education curriculum, "Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State."
Standard 1: Ecological, Social, and Economic Systems
Students develop knowledge of the interconnections and interdependency of ecological, social, and economic systems. They demonstrate understanding of how the health of these systems determines the sustainability of natural and human communities at local, regional, national, and global levels.
Ecological systems encompass the living (biotic) and the non-living (abiotic) components of an environment. Social systems refer to human interactions, culture, and politics, with an emphasis on equity and fairness. Economic systems refer to the production, distribution, and consumption of resources including attention to economic equity and the fair distribution of opportunities and impacts.
Standard 2: The Natural and Built Environment
Students engage in inquiry and systems thinking and use information gained through learning experiences in, about, and for the environment to understand the structure, components, and processes of natural and human-built environments.
“Systems thinking” considers the component parts of a system in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking helps illustrate how events may be separated by distance and time, and that small catalytic events can cause large changes in complex systems.
The phrase “in, about, and for the environment” refers to learning that takes place in the environment (outdoor education), learning that is about the environment and environmental issues (loss of biodiversity, climate change, and water quality), and learning for conservation of the natural environment (service projects). Standard 2 promotes a sense of place through which students feel connected to and appreciate where they live. The standard encourages learning outside the formal classroom walls.
Standard 3: Sustainability and Civic Responsibility
Students develop and apply the knowledge, perspective, vision, skills, and habits of mind necessary to make personal and collective decisions and take actions that promote sustainability.
A key aspect of sustainability is the impact of one’s decisions and actions on current and future generations. The intent of this standard is for students to apply the knowledge and experiences referred to in Standards 1 and 2 by taking an active role as responsible citizens and creating positive solutions for present and future generations.
Consideration of multiple perspectives allows for a wider range of possible solutions. Students should be able to envision a world that is sustainable, and articulate the changes that would be needed to achieve their vision. Necessary skills include communication, collaboration, and imagination. Desirable habits of mind include flexibility, commitment, appreciation, humor, confidence, and determination.
Learn more about the our state Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards