With the help of the Juneau Community Foundation, Discovery Southeast evaluated how well Juneau Schools meet the Alaska Natural Resources and Environmental Literacy Plan. Developed by Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game and Department of Education and Early Development, this plan provides a road map for schools to integrate active outdoor learning and environmental education.
The graphic below shows many of Juneau’s outdoor education programs. Click on a bubble to see the full list of programs in that category. Further down, you’ll see an evaluation of the Environmental Literacy Plan’s 5 goals. Programs are always changing, so if you see something that needs updating please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open to the public
| Has not been evaluated
(1) insufficient programming or not aligned with goals
(5) Exceeding expectations
Goal 1: Provide all PreK-12 children in Alaska with opportunities to engage in safe outdoor learning experiences as part of regular instruction.
While certain teachers or community organizations make strong efforts to engage classrooms in nature, Juneau lacks a comprehensive approach serving all grades and does not include outdoor goals in the curriculum. A notable exception is Discovery Southeast’s own program, Nature Studies, which takes each 3rd-5th grade classroom outdoors for a half-day science lesson and field trip each season of the school year. Additionally, each Spring the District supports SeaWeek, taking each classroom on an ocean-relevant two hour field trip.
Juneau curricula include little reference to healthy outdoor activities or inclusion of teaching opportunities outdoors. While our PE curriculum emphasizes activity and motor skills, the suggested activities emphasize indoor training or sports, and never explicitly encourage a teacher to take classrooms outdoors. The Health curriculum similarly references a range of physical and mental goals that are well-achieved through time outdoors, but makes almost no effort to recommend outdoor opportunities other than suggesting that students demonstrate outdoor safety – as if the outdoors were a threat. One bright spot on the horizon is the current curriculum update for Science as it includes a focus on place-based connections and natural phenomena. The science curriculum committee has an opportunity to explicitly encourage outdoor learning.
There are rich learning opportunities outdoors, and Juneau is fortunate to have phenomenal public lands available. We would be well served to incorporate natural learning opportunities as district-wide goals, and provide teachers greater flexibility to support those teachers who wish to create such opportunities.
Goal 2: Support Alaska Department of Education & Early Development Standards by further incorporating natural resouce and environmental literacy across subject areas.
Although this evaluation is focused on Juneau’s progress, to the extent Alaska State Standards are relevant, they rarely refer to outdoor education.
Goal 3: Foster partnerships with non-profits, tribal organizations, government agencies, universities, and businesses to enhance meaningful service-learning experiences for students that also provide benefits to communities and their local environments.
Juneau’s local service-learning organization was dissolved in 2015, and while many sporadic opportunities exist, there is no comprehensive effort to provide service learning.
Goal 4: Enhance professional development for educators, administrators, and community members in natural resource & environmental literacy.
The District’s in-services and continuing education opportunities do not include environmental literacy. Several community organizations, however, offer excellent continuing education with a place-based and outdoor focus. These include Sealaska Heritage Foundation, Discovery Southeast, The University of Alaska Southeast, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Goal 5: “School facilities, grounds, and local natural areas that provide accessible learning opportunities and serve as community models for healthy living and sustainability.”
Juneau is blessed with a natural environment that is easily accessible. Most Juneau schools can provide students with safe, walkable access to outdoor learning environments. However, these landscapes are often beyond the fence while play yards are often paved and graveled, limiting opportunities for interaction with the natural world. While several Juneau schools have natural spaces in their play yards, there are opportunities for improvement, particularly middle schools and high schools, as well as improving demonstration areas to model gardens, compost, etc. And, of course, world-class access to wild areas can be wasted without curricula and school policies that encourage use of outdoor learning areas.