The purpose of this qualitative research study was to answer the following question: 1) How does a new urban middle school use environmental science as an integrating tool for its curriculum? Many sub-questions emerged as necessary precursors to understanding the complex thinking behind the school's decision to use environmental science as an integrator. This study examines the current literature concerning environmental education, earth education, and integrated curriculum. It then focuses on a new urban middle school in the Pacific Northwest whose curriculum is integrated around an Environmental Core. The school is unique in the region. Not only does the school have a specialty focus, but it practices integrated curriculum and utilizes mixed-age classrooms of grades 6-8. The research focused primarily on educators perceptions and operative functionings concerning the new curriculum. Information was gathered using qualitative research methods including observations, teacher surveys, interviews, and the researcher stepping into the role of teacher. The research revealed a strong commitment on the part of the teachers to this new approach. They identified benefits to their students that could not be achieved through a different curricular strategy. Integrated curriculum through a focus on real-world issues made learning relevant and motivating to students. In addition, the curriculum may also increase· students higher order thinking skills in and outside of the classroom. The approach studied in this research harkens to Dewey's conceptions of learning by doing in realistic settings (1915).
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