Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and the C3 College, Career, and Civic Life Framework


How environmental education is conceptualized and implemented in elementary and secondary schools is critical if we are to meet our ultimate goal of environmental literacy. Integrated across the curriculum, environmental education draws upon the natural and physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  These disciplines are connected not only through the medium of the environment, but also through the development of environmental issue investigation and action skills needed for civic engagement.  In the end, however, the ability of school systems to provide comprehensive environmental education will depend on its systematic and cohesive integration into the standards-based curriculum. Although we know that curriculum can be designed that supports both academic achievement and the development of environmental literacy, we also know that this type of curriculum planning takes work. It requires a thorough understanding of the standards and of the components of environmental literacy.

With the publication of The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History (NCSS 2013), a new vision of social studies education was articulated. As teachers and other educators take on the process of mapping their curriculum and developing the instructional strategies necessary to implement the C3 Framework fully, we felt it would be useful to provide a resource that highlights some of the linkages between this vision of social studies education and environmental literacy.

Exploring Synergy: Environmental Literacy and the C3 College, Career, and Civic Life Framework is designed to provide a series of matrices that help to articulate the linkages between the C3 Framework and NAAEE's K-12 Environmental Education: Guidelines for Excellence. These matrices were developed with two distinct purposes in mind:

1) to help educators identify natural opportunities to connect the curriculum through a comprehensive, cohesive vision of environmental literacy and

2) to help educators identify how environmental education can support social studies education.

Ultimately, this document is meant to be used as a tool for curriculum development and instructional design.