WPS science program embraces environmentalism

With an ever-increasing demand for sustainability in the workplace and home life, the need for environmental education has also increased significantly over the past decade.  Wellesley Public Schools (WPS), toted as a world-class education system that works ahead of the curve in its educational standards, has also begun to embrace this new focus as a core component of science education.

In recent years and moving into the future, the WPS science curriculum has and will become more oriented towards sustainability issues at all grade levels.  Adaptations range in extent from minor new curriculum inclusions to entirely new elective courses

At the elementary level, sustainable curriculum enhancements will be rolled out over the next three years.  New state science curriculum standards include a focus on the importance of natural resources and the ways that human activity impacts the environment, which are two areas where Wellesley’s elementary schoolers will be receiving more instruction.

Changes will be more pronounced at Wellesley Middle School, which took over Earth Science instruction from the high school last year.  Environmental topics are rounding out the middle school’s science curriculum, with 6th and 7th graders experiencing project-based learning that touches on topics such as genetics, ecosystems, food webs, and erosion.  8th graders are learning about Earth systems such as plate tectonics and weather.

“Teachers take advantage of actual weather and Earth events as they happen to preview, deepen, or review with students what causes these events, how we can try to prepare for events that are predictable, and how changes in climate affect the patterns we see,” said Kate Morton, the middle school’s Science Department Head.  “All of this is still in its infancy so we expect to see more changes, additions and revisions in the near future.”

Several new course offerings at Wellesley High School promise to provide more options for students interested in sustainability.  The most significant addition is AP Environmental Science, a college-level course covering fundamentals of Earth‘s systems, human populations, renewable and non-renewable resources, environmental quality, global changes and environmental ethics.  A biotechnology course will also be offered next year.

Many parents are very supportive of the program’s evolution.  “If you want to stay busy for the next 30 years then you should get into sustainability, energy, or the environment,” said high school parent Quentin Prideaux. “Humankind’s greatest (ever) threats and opportunities are in these areas, so I’m delighted that this new curriculum gives our children the start they need.”

The planned additions to the WPS science program draw parallels with other programs in the district, including the high school’s Evolutions program, which produced plans for a “sustainable Wellesley” in the year 2100 as a fall project.  

“Sustainable education is really crucial because it’s youth who are going to be leading our government and corporations in the future, and they need to have fundamental education of what is happening to our world in order to make educated and wise choices that will ultimately benefit the earth,” said Olivia Gieger, a student at the high school. “I think that we have a good start on sustainable education, but I think there is a long way to go to make sure that students at all levels receive an adequate amount of this education.”

(Matthew Hornung and Keenan Ashbrook)

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