The Future of K-12 Water Education: The 2010 Mississippi Framework and the Proposed National Research Council Framework for Science Education

Author(s): Clary, R.; Brzuszek, R.; Wandersee, J.

Previous researchers (Brzuszek et al 2009) investigated the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in four northern Gulf Coast watersheds (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi), and reported that the NGOs’ focus varied by watershed. However, subsequent analysis of these northern Gulf States’ educational standards revealed that the NGOs’ focus was not being reflected in the respective state’s water education requirements (Clary & Brzuszek 2009). Under the 2001 Mississippi Science Framework, 69% of the researchers’ 13 identified water topics were included, but most of these were non-required objectives, or within elective courses that are not taught at all Mississippi schools. Only one topic, pollution, was required to be taught as a state competency (grade 4). While Louisiana fared better than other coastal states with 54% of the water content topics in K-12 education, several topics were still omitted. Clary and Brzuszek (2009) concluded that greater collaboration was needed between watersheds, their associated NGOs, and educators to implement water education in public schools through the required science content standards.

However, science education is not static: Both the 2010-11 adoption of Mississippi’s 2010 Science Framework and the recently released 2010 National Research Council (NRC) draft of the conceptual Framework for Science Education indicate that new challenges and opportunities exist for water education. Our current research compared water education topics in the Mississippi 2010 Science Framework against the earlier 2001 Framework. While there is greater vertical alignment between grades K-8 in the 2010 Framework, many of the water topics are included as optional objectives and not as required competencies, resulting in increased water education possibilities with teacher flexibility. Content analysis of the preliminary public draft of the NRC science framework also revealed flexibility and water education potential: Although water education was not regularly mentioned in the document, the new NRC draft focuses upon "learning progression." Another notable change is the incorporation of Engineering and Technology as a fourth domain of science alongside the current domains (Life, Earth and Space, and Physical sciences).

Both Mississippi ’s vertical alignment and the NRC learning progressions are consistent with our best practices model (Clary & Brzuszek 2009). These documents also suggest a potential educational trend toward increased content reinforcement across grade levels and teacher flexibility. We suggest there may be increased opportunity for NGOs to develop water education programs at multiple grade levels that address these broader science standards, resulting in greater inclusion of water education within the local watershed.

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Technical Sessions

Session I Sedimentation
Session II Weather/Climate
Session III Coastal Resources
Session IV Surface Water Management
Session V Wetlands
Session VI Education
Session VII Management/Planning
Session VIII Wetlands
Session IX Delta Groundwater
Session X Nutrients
Session XI Delta Water Resources
Session XII Ports

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