California's Environmental Principles
and Concepts

The State of California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&C) are the foundation of the environmental content taught in the EEI Curriculum. The EP&C thoroughly examine the interactions and interdependence of human societies and natural systems. While they are the bedrock of the EEI Curriculum, equally significant is that these very EP&C must be addressed in all future California textbook adoptions. The EEI Curriculum is the very first SBE approved curriculum designed specifically to develop environmental literacy. As California’s students master these principles and concepts, they become environmentally literate.

Approved in 2004, the EP&C were developed by more than 100 scientists and technical experts. They include 5 principles and 14 environmental concepts. At least one EP&C is taught in each EEI unit through custom learning objectives that also lead to mastery of the content standards. Therefore, as students are taught the learning objectives and are mastering each standard, they are also learning the EP&C. In the EEI Curriculum, students’ knowledge of the EP&C builds and spirals through their educational years, leading to deeper and more complex understanding as the student advances.

 Principle I

People Depend on Natural Systems
The continuation and health of individual human lives and of human communities and societies depend on the health of the natural systems that provide essential goods and ecosystem services.

Concept A: Students need to know that the goods produced by natural systems are essential to human life and to the functioning of our economies and cultures.

Concept B: Students need to know that the ecosystem services provided by natural systems are essential to human life and to the functioning of our economies and cultures.

Concept C: Students need to know that the quality, quantity, and reliability of the goods and ecosystem services provided by natural systems are directly affected by the health of those systems.

 Principle II

People Influence Natural Systems
The long-term functioning and health of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, and marine ecosystems are influenced by their relationships with human societies.

Concept A: Students need to know that direct and indirect changes to natural systems due to the growth of human populations and their consumption rates influence the geographic extent, composition, biological diversity, and viability of natural systems.

Concept B: Students need to know that methods used to extract, harvest, transport, and consume natural resources influence the geographic extent, composition, biological diversity, and viability of natural systems.

Concept C: Students need to know that the expansion and operation of human communities influences the geographic extent, composition, biological diversity, and viability of natural systems.

Concept D: Students need to know that the legal, economic, and political systems that govern the use and management of natural systems directly influence the geographic extent, composition, biological diversity, and viability of natural systems.

 Principle III

Natural Systems Change in Ways that People Benefit from and Can Influence
Natural systems proceed through cycles that humans depend upon, benefit from, and can alter.

Concept A: Students need to know that natural systems proceed through cycles and processes that are required for their functioning.

Concept B: Students need to know that human practices depend upon and benefit from the cycles and processes that operate within natural systems.

Concept C: Students need to know that human practices can alter the cycles and processes that operate within natural systems.

 Principle IV

There are no Permanent or Impermeable Boundaries that Prevent Matter from Flowing Between Systems
The exchange of matter between natural systems and human societies affects the long-term functioning of both.

Concept A: Students need to know that the effects of human activities on natural systems are directly related to the quantities of resources consumed and to the quantity and characteristics of the resulting byproducts.

Concept B: Students need to know that the byproducts of human activity are not readily prevented from entering natural systems and may be beneficial, neutral, or detrimental in their effect.

Concept C: Students need to know that the capacity of natural systems to adjust to human-caused alterations depends on the nature of the system as well as the scope, scale, and duration of the activity and the nature of its byproducts.

 Principle V

Decisions Affecting Resources and Natural Systems are Complex and Involve Many Factors
Decisions affecting resources and natural systems are based on a wide range of considerations and decision making processes.

Concept A: Students need to know the spectrum of what is considered in making decisions about resources and natural systems and how those factors influence decisions.

Concept B: Students need to know the process of making decisions about resources and natural systems, and how the assessment of social, economic, political, and environmental factors has changed over time.

 

The progression and spiraling of the Environmental Principles (PDF, 255 KB) from Kindergarten through 12th Grade in the EEI Curriculum, is illustrated in this chart.

You can also review a correlation of all 85 EEI Curriculum Units (PDF, 307 KB) to the Environmental Principles.

A three-step process was used to develop the environmental principles and concepts for alignment with K-12 academic content standards. It involved:

1. Identification of “Overarching Environmental Principles” for use as an initial framework for developing the environmental principles and concepts. This was achieved through the following activities:

  • Collecting and reviewing examples of environmental principles from a wide variety of sources (e.g., American Academy for the Advancement of Science, The Center for Environmental Education of Antioch New England, and the North American Association for Environmental Education)
  • Identifying common themes among the examples of environmental principles
  • Using systems-thinking concepts as a framework for drafting overarching environmental principles
  • Establishing overarching principles related to interactions between natural systems and human communities and complete initial academic review.

2. Development of topic-specific environmental principles that correspond to the more general overarching principles. List and grouping of environmental topics (PDF, 18 KB). This was achieved through a series of topic-specific Technical Working Group meetings that involved state/local agency personnel, university faculty, representatives of business and industry, representatives of non-governmental environmental organizations, and educators. Participating organizations (PDF, 11 KB).

3. Delineation of the high-priority environmental concepts that were connected with each of the topic-specific environmental principles. This was undertaken through a second series of topic-specific Technical Working Group meetings.

In December 2004, the Environmental Principles & Concepts were reviewed by the Secretary of Cal/EPA and the CIWMB and approved for use.

Who's been involved

  • Technical Working Groups
  • Standards Alignment Teams
  • Field Reviews (6)
  • Orientation for Education Environment Advisor's
  • Educator Needs Assessment
  • District Focus Groups
  • Self Evaluations (more than 2,000 EE providers in California & nationwide)

 

Contact Us: EEI@calepa.ca.gov or call (916) 341-6769 for further information.
Education and the Environment Initiative, http://www.calepa.ca.gov/Education/EEI/
Last updated: June 25, 2012

Additional Links

The development of the EP&C and examples illustrating the concepts:
(Download PDF)

EP&C Scope and Sequence Chart:
(Download PDF)

Alignment of all 85 EEI Units to the EP&C:
(Download PDF)