Supporting Environmental Literacy Through Children’s Literature


by Nanette Heffernan


Earth HourUnderstanding and appreciating the natural world, and our place in it, is an important goal of K-12 education. While we cannot predict all the issues the next generation will confront, we can be certain that among them will be issues related to the environment ( The National Science Board’s Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century report stresses the importance of improving public knowledge of environmental issues, but what exactly does environmentally literacy look like?

Environmental Literacy is the understanding that we all have a relationship with the environment around us, enabling us to make educated decisions about how our actions affect Earth’s natural systems and communities, both today and in the future. A strong foundation in the topic helps students appreciate the natural world, nurtures them to become productive citizens of society, and bolsters their critical thinking skills. In the classroom, educators find that allowing students of all ages to explore and discuss environmental issues that will affect their generation reduces anxiety by encouraging them to form opinions and work through solutions. Many states have required school districts to incorporate environmental literacy into their curriculum, but often not until middle school. K-5 Next Generation Science Standards are rich with environmental concepts as well. However, most of these concepts do not directly connect to human activity, a critical component of any environmental literacy program. This presents the opportunity for engaging, science-based environmental literature to fill the curriculum gap for younger students.

I have been working with children and school districts for over fifteen years on various sustainability opportunities from waste-free lunch programs to energy conservation. Today I am honored to take my efforts a step further by partnering with Charlesbridge to publish my debut picture book, EARTH HOUR, a lights-out event for our planet. The book highlights the many uses of energy in our daily lives and opportunities for conservation. The lessons and activities in the accompanying educator’s guide encourage students to think critically about the ways our daily choices impact Earth and its ecosystems and how children can be part of the solution to reverse climate change. EARTH HOUR is one of many titles offered by Charlesbridge that builds a child’s understanding of environmental literacy so they may become the leaders of tomorrow.

About Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a worldwide movement in support of energy conservation and sustainability. The annual event is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) on a Saturday night near the equinox in March. During Earth Hour, individuals, communities, businesses, and monuments in more than 7,000 cities turn off nonessential electric lights for one hour as a pledge to our planet. Across each continent—from the Eiffel Tower to the Great Wall of China to the Statue of Liberty—one small act reminds all of us of our enormous impact on Earth.

Author Nanette HeffernanRead more about Nanette Heffernan.

Check out this downloadable Educator's Guide.

Earth Hour is celebrated this year on March 28, 2020!

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