California May Integrate Apps in Environmental Curriculum

New multimedia technology aims to help students engage in the environment.


This article was published in partnership with

Students in California may soon be learning about the environment via iPad applications. EcoDads, a group of sustainably minded fathers, is currently seeking support to fund two apps that would make California’s Education and the Environment Initiative curriculum available on the iPad. This “Environmental Edutainment Apps Project” seeks to “adapt the State Board of Education-approved curriculum into flexible, deeply engrossing interactive lessons for use in classrooms.”

EcoDads’ first task would be to develop two sixth-grade units. The project is part of a larger effort to make the EEI curriculum available to all of California’s 6.2 million students, as the high cost of printing and distribution has hindered the implementation of the EEI curriculum.

Michael Leifer, EcoDads co-founder and executive producer of the project, said in a press release that the apps’ focus on a California audience will encourage students to engage in their local environment. Leiffer said the app will help students explore and analyze the natural environment and its troubles in their region. He said:

We can deliver active, not passive, student-engagement with these next generation learning tools. They will support a system of community-based knowledge-building that will ultimately allow great ideas and solutions from students themselves to filter back into the curriculum for the benefit of succeeding generations of students.

The interactive apps would allow students to view and expand photos, view maps, watch videos, use sidebar graphics, use flash cards and review what they learned. Mark Campbell, a California superintendent, said, “Any endeavor that seeks to effectively facilitate the active engagement of students is worthwhile and it is clear that the Environmental Edutainment Apps Project aims to do just that.” 

In 2003 and 2005, California legislators mandated the EEI curriculum, which is meant to implement an environmental curriculum throughout the state. The California Environmental Protection Agency stated on its Web site:

More can and should be done to understand our relationship with the environment, and we believe the best place to begin is in California’s classrooms. With education and a thriving economy at the forefront of the state’s priorities, California’s landmark EEI Curriculum is a national model designed to help prepare today’s students to become future scientists, economists, and green technology leaders.

Educators also note that California, home to Silicon Valley and the top technology companies, has the means to revolutionize technology used in the classroom. Jason Messer, a California superintendent, said:

We need to get students "virtually" outside of their classrooms. During our modern digital gold rush here in California, I hope that there are companies who will provide innovation and generous support for apps like the ones that Ecodads are developing. 

EcoDads created a Kickstarter campaign to help fun the project, and has met its $20,000 goal. They are still raising money as additional funds are going toward funding the iPads, technical equipment, etc.

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet. 

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