Plant an Idea Plant a Tree (book)

I. Preface
Serious concerns about the state of the global environment have a relatively short history of just over a century. However, during the past decades environmental education has advanced significantly to accrue a strong, factual evidence base, as well as an ever-growing arsenal of teaching strategies and tools. Today’s environmental education is best described by the following definitions: “Environmental education is the process of recognizing values and clarifying concepts in order to develop the skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the interrelationship between man, his culture, and his biophysical surroundings.” (One of the first formal definitions of environmental education adopted in 1970, IUCN/UNESCO meeting, Nevada, USA) “Environmental education is defined as a process aimed at developing a world population that is aware of, and concerned about the total environment and its associated problems, which has the knowledge, attitudes, skills, motivation, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones.” (Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education with the participation of 66 member states of UNESCO, Tbilisi, 1977) Environmental education now entails not only acquiring academic knowledge, but developing practical skills as well. It allows children to gain participatory experience in environmental issues, which gradually becomes a prerequisite for becoming a responsible citizen. Today, the only way to develop a society of active citizens is by involving them in global problem-solving processes. Environmental education has a very important characteristic feature—it does not limit itself within the boundaries of only one school subject or one field of science. As a matter of fact, environmental education is an interdisciplinary form of education based on the knowledge from multiple subjects and fields of science, as well as broad areas such as economics, health, information technology, and politics. Furthermore, it spreads beyond the boundaries of one country, state, or region, and concerns itself with the whole of the Planet Earth and even the Universe. Environmental education also capitalizes on the heritage of various cultures and humanity in general. It is necessary to study and make every attempt to understand our ancestors’ practices of relating to nature and living in harmony with it. We should seek answers to the following questions: Why would the Armenian kings plant forests and impose severe punishment on illegal woodcutters and poachers? Why would Davit of Sassoun consider it immoral to hunt in fenced areas? How does Davit’s attitude compare to today’s tolerance of hunting and killing animals even from a helicopter window? We can learn lessons from our own culture and traditions, and reinstate traditions of caring for nature and appreciating it. Environmental education offers a wide array of approaches to rebuild the damaged connections between human society and the natural environment. 1 This manual is based on the environmental curriculum titled “Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree” compiled by Karla Wesley, and is designed for training teachers involved in environmental education in the elementary and secondary school system. Dr. Wesley’s work represents a very successful example of a modern environmental education program.This manual follows the principle of logical integrity of environmental education, and can be tentatively divided into three parts. The Introduction covers the following topics: • Environmental Education: Global Definition • Changes in Environmental Education: In and Outside the Classroom • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International Checklist for Effective Practices of Environmental Education in Schools • Specific Features of an Environmental Education Lesson Plan • Conceptual Framework The second part of the book (the ATP Teaching Guide) offers teaching guidelines split into three units: Discovery: This unit encourages children and teachers to use art and science to discover the natural wonders of the Armenian environment. Observation:This unit helps develop research skills whileexpanding theclassroom to thelocal neighborhood environment. Analysis: This unit develops observational and analytical skills by having children monitor plant and animal populations to assess the health of the environment. The present edition of the manual incorporates environmental education lesson plans written by Armenian teachers. The lesson plans are mainly designed for elementary and secondary school children. In order to apply interactive methods, the teachers have chosen strategies according to lesson topics and objectives. In the course of teaching, those strategies can be modified according to the children’s age and their baseline levels of knowledge. All the lesson plans are composed of three stages, which is typical for interactive teaching methods. However, the lesson plans differ somewhat in the way they are presented. In order to encourage creativity and freedom, we have refrained from applying a single standard template to these lesson plans.

—Melanya Davtyan