TOTOS SEEP Grant EE/ESE Program Descriptions

Sustainability and Environmental Education for Pre-Service (SEEP)

Information needed

Information to share

Name(s) of instructor(s)

Apanakhi Buckley, Ph.D.

Name of university

Heritage University

Level of preparation for the program being described: elementary, middle school, high school (or combination)

Elementary and Middle School

University course number

ED 332

University course title

Methods in Science and Math

University course catalogue description

Study of the content, methods, materials, and assessment approaches in elementary/middle school science. Creation of projects in science based on Washington State Science Standards. Classroom observation required.


(big ideas are fine)

Plans and implements curriculum, instruction, and assessment which facilitates learning in science and mathematics.

Description of the experience(s) the pre-service teachers had to learn EE-ESE strategies

(This is the main, detailed description)

Teaching candidates began the semester with a Project Learning Tree workshop, during which students selected a tree on campus, described it, and estimated its height as a strategy for addressing the systems standard K-1 SYSA “Living and Non-living things are made of parts.” They then considered a tree as habitat, using the activity “Trees as Habitats,” pp. 102 – 104 (PLT, 2008). Building on that understanding of habitat, they created a microhabitat in “TerrAqua columns” (a strategy invented by the National Science Foundation administered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison) as a means for observing the interaction of organisms in the classroom. During the semester, they continued to monitor their TerrAqua columns and record their observations in science journals.

The initial workshop was followed by a field trip to the Yakima Arboretum conducted by silviculturalist, Dr. Mark Petruncio, during which they identified trees that are indigenous to the state of Washington. At the Arboretum Visitors’ Center, Washington state landforms are depicted graphically in high relief accompanied by an explanation of water cycles and rain shadow. Following the field trip, candidates modeled the water cycle using the PLT activity “Water Wonders” (pp. 188 – 193, PLT guide). To prepare candidates for considering the desert climate of our local habitat, the instructor displayed a poster of Washington’s Shrub Steppe environment and taped the name of an animal on each person’s back. The activity required them to ask yes-or-no questions about the animal until they could identify it. When they succeeded, they were given a copy of the poster (provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) to use in their own classrooms.

To examine environmental change, the instructor brought antique (60 year old) trash to show how long it takes metal cans to break down in the environment. Candidates were provided with pamphlets on pollution and classroom composting. Particular attention was paid to salmon recovery, because of the importance that salmon has to the Yakama Nation, where the main campus of Heritage University is located. The Columbia Intertribal Fish Commission provided each candidate over a two-year period with copies of the book Protecting and Restoring Watersheds. Students studied the book as one means of addressing the life science standard about life cycles.

To look at fourth and fifth grade standards about complex systems, students used the PLT activity “The Fallen Log,” (pp. 105 – 107, PLT guide). They used the activity “Web of Life” for the fourth grade standard 4-5LS2A “Plants and animals depend on one another and the nonliving resources in their ecosystem to help them survive.” During the course of the semester, the Environmental Education Activity Guide published by PLT, was used frequently to model experiments and activities that meet the Washington State Science Standards.

While addressing sixth to eighth grade standards, students focused on the Yakima River and its watershed. Online resources were accessed to consider water flow, pollution, and issues around the demands on the Yakima River.

Over the course of the two years of this project, Washington State Science Standards remained the focus. Strategies for teaching about living systems were taught as before. The primary change was a substantially increased emphasis on environmental education when methods for teaching systems and inquiry were addressed.

Materials/equipment needed for the pre-service teacher experience (include technology that may have been used)

Books provided to candidates:
Project Learning Tree. (2008). Pre K-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide

Hollenbach, Margaret and Ory, Jill. (2000). Protecting and Restoring Watersheds: A Tribal Approach to Salmon Recovery. Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission

Posters provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Washington’s Shrub Steppe Environment

Posters provided by Washington Forest Protection Association:
“Washington Forests”


  • Magnifying glasses
  • Clinometers for estimating tree height
  • Binoculars
  • Science notebooks

David Suzuki’s method for using a pencil to estimate tree height
Pamphlets on Lake Roosevelt and composting

Were preK-12 children involved? (Yes or no). If yes, describe their involvement and ages.

No, not in the science methods course. However, each candidate was required to organize a file of materials which they subsequently used with elementary school students in a teaching practicum. Candidates taught science to first through fifth graders in an after-school program funded by 21st Century.

Was this an indoor or outdoor project (or both)?

Describe the setting.

Projects were both indoor and outdoor. The Heritage University Toppenish campus is spread across agricultural land bounded by hop fields. The campus is planted with trees—primarily trees indigenous to the state. Few other classes met on Saturdays, so the class took advantage of the campus for outdoor activities.

Were other subject area professors involved? Yes or no. If yes, what subjects were integrated? How?


Were there community/ agency/institution partners? Yes or no. If yes, how was the partnership structured?

Project Learning Tree trained the instructor as a facilitator so that she could conduct workshops.

How was the program evaluated? What did the pre-service teachers have to say?

A standard form used by the university was employed to evaluate the class.

Several students commented on how kinesthetic the class was, for instance, “It was hands-on, very interesting and exciting. Lots of great ideas.”


I enjoyed teaching in this project in conjunction with work that I was doing on our campus “Sustainability Committee.” The heightened awareness among our students of the importance of sustaining healthy environments is encouraging to me.

If another grant was written to support your EE-ESE work, what types of things would you hope to accomplish?

My next priority does not require money; it is a scheduling problem. I need for the class to be scheduled early in the fall or late during spring semester so that we may also take advantage of the proximity of the Toppenish Creek Wildlife Refuge. I intend to raise that concern with my department chair.

Thank you!

Thank you! It has been a pleasure working on the project.--Apanakhi