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Environmental Science For Grades 6-12:
A Project-Based Approach to Solving the Earth's Most Urgent Problems

The Book

"As we enter into life post-pandemic, this book is a roadmap for teachers wanting to delve into a technology-rich approach to helping students  understand and think through some of the most challenging environmental concerns."

- From the forward by Dr. Marquita Blades.  


Environmental science (ES) education is essential to providing students with opportunities for hands-on investigations to find solutions to complex environmental problems. But the recent COVID-19 crisis has dramatically curtailed student access to ES-focused experiences, particularly affecting students of color and those from low-income communities. At the same time, changes in pollution and air quality levels, as well as a resurgence of wildlife, have created new avenues for students to connect with the revitalized world through technology and social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies.


Project-based learning (PBL), with its emphasis on inquiry and authentic challenges, can be an effective approach to teaching ES. Those new to PBL may not feel they have adequate training. Likewise, teachers who haven’t taught ES may question how to incorporate it into their curriculum. This book addresses both situations, providing practical guidance for teachers, along with examples of technology-rich, learner-centered student projects covering a range of timely and cross-curricular topics such as endangered animal populations, maintenance of oceans, rebounding of bee populations and urban air quality.


This book:


  • Helps teachers design learning experiences that model authentic problems and processes practiced by scientists and engineers, to prepare students for future careers in science. 

  • Provides strategies to develop students’ SEL skills and instill in them a renewed empathy for the environment as they get a glimpse of what a better, cleaner and more sustainable world can look like. 

  • Introduces facilitation techniques that redefine the teacher’s traditional role as one that supports increased student agency, the development of critical thinking skills and an expanded awareness of their place in the global community. 

  • Includes a chapter that focuses on applying the principles and strategies shared in the book in an online learning environment. 

  • Addresses Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) topics in environmental science and is aligned to the ISTE Standards for Educators.


PBL is one of the best ways for students to explore complex processes and concepts, and this book will help teachers leverage this approach to empower students to take action toward a better future and world.

The Research

"PBL works. It works for everyone. And now we can measure it"

- Kristin De Vivo, Executive Director, Lucas Educational Research

The release of our book coincided with conclusion of a two-year study conducted by Lucas Educational Research in partnership with The University of Southern California. The study, which encompassed five large urban districts and thousands of students, concluded that a project-based approach to teaching Environmental Science produced better learning outcomes than a traditional approach. Important conclusions from this research include;   

  • Student who took the A.P. Environmental Science exam performed better with a project-based learning approach. During year one of the story, 45% of the PBL students scored a 3 or higher as compared with 37% of those students who were taught traditionally. Year two the spread was two points higher in favor of PBL once again.   ​

  • There was no difference in outcomes between students from low-income household and those from high-income households when PBL was the main instructional approach. 

  • As the teachers in the study became more knowledgable about PBL, the learning outcomes for the students increased. 

One very important takeaway from the study was that these remarkable outcomes came as a result of expertly-designed projects using a high-quality PBL model and teachers who received ongoing professional development, two things that Jorge and James can provide to your schools and teachers.

The Authors

Jorge Valenzuela is an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University and the lead coach at Lifelong Learning Defined. Jorge's extensive experience as a facilitator of professional development has taken him all over the country where he regularly works with teachers to develop their project-based learning knowledge integrated with STEM and SEL. His book Rev Up Robotics and its companion jump start guide Ready, Set, Robotics! are available from ISTE, and his next book, which explores his Equity and SEL Integration Framework, is forthcoming from Solution Tree.

Email Jorge at

James Fester is a teacher, educational consultant and instructional coach who helps teachers harness the power of authentic, experiential, technology-infused approaches to classroom instruction. He works as a project-based learning consultant for PBLWorks, the industry leader in providing high-quality professional development for teachers and schools. Additionally he has collaborated with organizations such as National Geographic, Google, and the National Park Service on educational initiatives. His writing has been featured on well-known educational sites such as Getting Smart, TEDex, Edutopia, and KQED.

Email James at

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