Environmental Science Literacy

Environmental Science Literacy

The Cary Institute is one of several institutions involved in a new project supported by a 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Math Science Partnership (MSP) program. The Environmental Science Literacy (ESL) project focuses on the critical education juncture of middle through high school (grades 6-12).

Universities and research centers associated with four Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) programs across the nation are collaborating with school districts to a) define essential pathways for achieving environmental science literacy, and b) to develop and test teacher professional development programs that help accomplish this ambitious goal through innovative instruction in the sciences in middle and high schools. The changes needed within institutions of higher education and the schools to sustain effective environmental science teaching will be explored and implemented. Key components of the project revolve around goals for research, professional development and systemic change.

Research Goals:   

  • Define and elaborate environmental science literacy learning progressions and assessments.
  • Explore variation in students' and teachers' environmental science thinking and learning.
  • Develop and test innovative environmental science teaching resources.

Professional Development Goals:

  • Develop and implement innovative and effect professional develop (PD) models for teachers.
  • Enhance environmental science instruction in partnership schools.

Systemic Change Goals:

  • Integrate culturally relevant, environmental content-based, PD models for K-12 teachers into district in service-learning tracks.
  • Develop and sustain university programs for outreach, graduate training and degrees

Principal Investigator:
Dr. John C. Moore, Colorado State University and Short Grass Steppe LTER

Dr. Charles Anderson, Michigan State University, Kellogg Biological Station LTER
Dr. Alan R. Berkowitz, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER
Raymond Tschillard, Poudre Learning Center, Greeley-Evans School District
Dr. Allison Whitmer, Georgetown University, Santa Barbara Coastal LTER
Dr. Robert L. Mayes, University of Wyoming
Dr. William Hoyt, University of Northern Colorado
Dr. Laurel Hartley, University of Colorado Denver
Dr. Sarah Haines, Towson University
Dr. Andrew Warnock, Colorado State University

Project Evaluator:
Dr. Rose Shaw, Metrica, Inc.

ESL Project Framework and Working Groups (March 2009)

Research Activities

Cross-Cutting Themes

Environmental Science Literacy Framework
Conceptual Strands

Carbon in Socio-Ecological Systems
Water in Socio-Ecological Systems
Biodiversity in Socio-Ecological Systems

Qualitative Accounts

Carbon Working Group: Grade 6-12 Learning Progressions & Assessments

Water Working Group: Grade 6-12 Learning Progressions & Assessments

Biodiversity Working Group: Grade 6-12 Learning Progressions & Assessments

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative Dimensions Working Group: Adding Components to the Grade 6-12 Learning Progressions & Assessments


  • Skills & Dispositions
  • Place-Based Understanding
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning
  • Cultural-Relevance

Citizenship Working Group: Adding Components to the Grade 6-12 Learning Progressions & Assessments

Professional Development Activities

All Strands and Themes

Professional Development Working Group: PD Research and Programs (Workshops, Research Experiences, Teachers in Residence, Graduate Student Opportunities).


ESL map


For more information about the project or the 6 Working Groups, contact:

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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