Pacific Education Institute Programs
PEI carries out its mission by training teachers to use a field-based, hands-on teaching that has proven more effective than traditional classroom teaching in helping students learn math, science, writing, reading and other academic skills. To support this way of teaching and learning, PEI accesses a large network of scientists from state agencies, universities, and private industries who enthusiastically share their expertise with teachers and students. Scientists help lead students outdoor to local natural areas enabling students to practice and apply science and math skills. PEI is about learning by doing. By empowering educators to provide experiential, “learning-by-doing” experiences, PEI improves the academic performance of students in Washington State. We also research, develop, hone and provide educational curriculum materials to support our work of connecting Washington’s K-12 students with local environments while engaging them in real-world science. Six of our Curriculum Guides were published in 2011.
Elementary students conduct field science studies on school sites linking earth’s systems to land, air, oceans, water, vegetation, forests, fish and wildlife in their community.
Middle school students conduct field study projects to tell their own story about their relationship to their watershed and implement stewardship plans to contribute to sustaining their community natural resources.
High school students undertake culminating projects to meet graduation requirements. Working with resource professionals from natural resource agencies, organizations, business and industry, students contribution to sustaining our environment for future generations.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
One of our most recent successes is the publication of PEI’s Guidelines for STEM scientific practices in and on behalf of natural resources and the environment. These Guidelines were reviewed in Washington State, launched in Washington DC in November 2011 to education leaders of federal and non-government agencies and continues to influence the National Academies of Sciences
“Next Generation of Science Standards” and state science standards. They are:
- Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills
- Field Investigations: Using Outdoor Environments to Foster Student Learning of Scientific Processes
- Schoolyard Biodiversity Investigation Educator Guide
- Landscape Investigation Guidelines
- Sustainable Tomorrow – Applying Systems Thinking to Environmental Education Curricula for grades 9-12
- The Project-Based Learning Model: Relevant Learning for the 21st Century
PEI’s current need is to reach more schools and teachers enabling students everywhere to become adults who can be part of the 21st Century’s environmental solutions. We must increase our reach to have a high impact. Currently, PEI is in 52 out of 294 school districts state wide and in only half of the districts in King County. PEI’s local, environment-based science and social science programs are in high demand for cash-strapped schools. While PEI has enjoyed significant success, our program is limited by funding. To remedy this, we have begun focusing our efforts on broadening our funding base to increase our Individual, Corporate and Foundation funding.