Movements in Indiana towards sustainability have been remarkable over the past decade. Indiana adopted municipal-recycling goal of 50-percent in 2014. The number of electric vehicle charging stations expanded from zero to 100+ in the last 3 years. As many as 105 communities are working to reduce their combined sewer overflows to tackle water pollution in the Hoosier state. The wind energy industry has grown from virtually nonexistent in 2007 to the 11th in the nation. Furthermore, a solar power plant built at the Indianapolis International Airport in 2014 is the largest airport solar farm in the world.

However, its growth has been hindered partially due to lack of education.  In particular, such trends in advanced energy businesses, which created 921 jobs in just one year in 2016, totalling 47,000 jobs in Indiana, are prominent. According to Advanced Energy Job in Indiana prepared by the Indiana Advanced Energy Economy, more than one-third of advanced energy firms have had hard time finding new employees due to lack of education.

In an era when redesigning each community in which all needs are met in sustainable ways is a key to the success of the community, providing a strong educational component about our environmental challenges is critical. Provision of environmental education for elementary school children will be a powerful tool for inviting positive bottom-up changes in communities and helping ensure an economically prosperous and environmentally sound future in the Hoosier State.

The importance of environmental education for young people was also highlighted when environmental education was included in the Every Student Succeeds Act that replaced No Child Left Behind on December 10, 2015.  It was stressed that strengthening both academic skills and environmental knowledge is essential to enhance students’ learning and success. The Act will support K-12 schools to develop a new curriculum that will engage students through environmental education.  And resources and materials for teachers to implement environmental literacy plans will become more critical than ever.

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Think Environment in Math was created and designed to enhance both academic achievement and understanding of environmental challenges of elementary students (grade 1-5) in Southwest Indiana. While traditional educational materials on either environmental issues or existing core subject areas have provided information on their focuses, Think Environment in Math is a marriage of those independently existing subject areas and integrates environmental subjects into one of the most important core subjects–mathematics. It specifically centers on local environmental problems and local environmental protection efforts in Southwest Indiana and makes up for disadvantages of using traditional educational materials that generalize local environmental problems.

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By taking this new and unique approach, Think Environment in Math intends to improve students’ knowledge on the local environmental issues while promoting their math skills and critical thinking skills. I firmly believe that Think Environment in Math will be able to provide children in Southwest Indiana positive impacts on their academic attainment as well as their skills to make informed decisions and take responsible action.

Author of Think Environmental Math

Hideka Yamaguchi, Ph.D.

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PPT Presentation

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