Tag Archives: curriculum

Environmental Science for Kindergarteners

If you were to walk into any American classroom today, you will find that the majority of instruction is focused on English and math.  With such intense attention on the core curriculum, students are missing out on the opportunity to learn about the world around them.   Our children deserve to know about the world they come from, and the world they will someday inherit.

The natural world is a subject that is seldom touched on in the early grades. In fact, in the state of California, science education, let alone environmental science, is not strictly required until the 4th grade.  If we expect to see any great, positive change in our environment, this simply can’t be the case.
This semester, I had the opportunity to work in a San Francisco elementary school teaching students about environmental issues, and it has been one of the most transformative experiences of my college career.  It is clear to me that change must occur in our narrowly-focused education system.  By altering the currently accepted, deep-rooted models of public education, and implementing new techniques, we can empower students with the knowledge of the natural world they so sorely lack.  

Unfortunately, the current public education system puts excessive weight on teaching strategies primarily geared toward improving standardized test scores, which means an excessive focus on mathematics and the language arts. Introducing environmental education early and more frequently can break that cycle by doing two things: introducing an important topic and being able to implement innovative teaching methods.

Environmental education is the perfect opportunity to address the intelligences of visual, kinesthetic and naturalistic learners, who have usually played second fiddle to learners who are math or reading-oriented. When students are physically involved in their education, they create a context in which they can deepen their understanding of any concept.

For example, the program with which I work, Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG), implements the small group model and hands-on learning for K-2nd grade environmental science.  One unique quality of EENG is its youth to youth education:  college students teach the lessons!  By working through interactive games and experiments with their college student-instructor, each student is shown how natural systems work and in the process gain the tools and knowledge necessary to apply to other questions that cross their paths.

We are living in a world where our societal practices and actions can no longer be sustained.   We have lost sight of our relationship to our earth and it’s making us sick.  Environmental education is about inspiring young minds to see and make real change happen.  We cannot solve our world issues over night, but we can start change now by being responsible for our actions and giving our children the tools necessary to preserve our future.   

For more information on the EENG program, contact Max Binstock, maxbinstock@eeng.org

Letter to the President and Board of Trustees

Dear Father Privett and Board of Trustees,

The recent allegations of a senior male ROTC member raping four young women on this campus have not only shaken up those directly affected, but also many of us in the USF community. While instances of rape and sexual harassment are by no means isolated to the army, there is no denying the overwhelming amount of sexual violence that exists within the military. According to a report issued by the Department of Defense in 2003, one in three women will be raped during their military service careers.

It is clear to us that what happened on this campus is a microcosm of a larger problem prevalent in the armed forces, in which gender-based harassment is all too common and the “culture of silence” is so prevalent that little is being done to solve it. For many of us, this is also a deeply personal issue, since some of us are either related to or in close relationship with someone within the ranks who has either experienced or witnessed these problems.

The young women and men of ROTC are not only graduating as military officers; they are also leaving as University of San Francisco graduates who bear the reputation, prestige, and values of this educational institution. They will indeed be future leaders of this world, and their actions abroad will reflect not only on the military institution, but on their University and country as well.

We are a University grounded in the most admirable Jesuit traditions, with values that include social responsibility, diversity of perspectives, and the moral dimension of every significant human choice. Therefore, we see it as most essential that in order to create better, more aware, and educated leaders, this University needs to become further involved in what ROTC students are being taught within their classrooms. This letter is not an attack on the ROTC program at USF; however, at this point, we believe that the two institutions are far too separated from each other to adequately address these issues and that both would benefit from a higher level of collaboration.

We do not believe that the core curriculum at USF is sufficient preparation for the social challenges these men and women will be exposed to upon entering military service. The average student at USF will never experience much of what the men and women of the ROTC will be subjected to. Therefore, these students need a special program that will provide them with a body of knowledge more appropriate for their future circumstances.

Our demand is that the University of San Francisco creates a uniquely designed leadership and certification program on gender and sexual violence for the ROTC students. The goal is a thorough program that will include lectures by professors from the politics, sociology, history, psychology, rhetoric and composition, media studies and ethics/philosophy departments, and military professionals in order to give these young women and men the knowledge necessary to make them more socially conscious future military leaders. The following is our proposal:  a credential program that runs throughout each ROTC member’s four years at USF. While the details of such a curriculum would be worked out at a future time, in a dialog between students, faculty, ROTC administrators, and other University personnel, there are eight areas of education which we see as most necessary to include:
•    The relationship between gender and power
•    The relationship between power and authority
•    The historic role of gender in the military
•    The current role of gender in the military
•    The implications of the culture of silence and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy
•    The psychological effects of combat and its connection to gender violence
•    The ethics and philosophy of militarism and violence
•    The connection between militarism, gender and sexuality

We suggest that each area is covered in one semester, in a series of four seminar classes, which would run an hour and a half long. During these seminars, a combination of lecture, discussion, and written assessment should be utilized. While this is only a foundation for what we hope will become a broader future curriculum, we believe these topics encompass the essential framework necessary for the ROTC students.
On a final note, we believe that, as representatives of the University of San Francisco, in order to ensure that we are truly “educating minds and hearts to change the world,” we should maintain and strive to achieve a higher level of expectations for our leadership. USF has the largest ROTC program on the West Coast, training cadets from a host of schools in neighboring areas. This grants us a unique opportunity to pioneer a program that will go above and beyond the expectations of a normal ROTC curriculum, creating one that more definitively aligns itself with the core values of this institution and provides these young women and men with the finest tools with which to represent our country and our University.

Sincerely,
Concerned Students of the University of San Francisco

Submitted by senior Alexandra Kotcheff