Rhode Island Environmental
Education Association

Rhode Island Assessment of Environmental Literacy

With generous funding from the Rhode Island Foundation and Pisces Foundation, RIEEA is implementing the Rhode Island Assessment of Environmental Literacy (RI-AEL) project, a statewide K-12 assessment designed to help us understand the environmental literacy of our students. This project aims to engage and improve the state as a whole. It will be implemented statewide while also being designed to be used as a model for the rest of the country.

The long-term goals of the RI-AEL are:

  1. To provide an effective assessment tool for Rhode Island schools and a model for other schools across the country.
  2. To determine if there is a positive correlation between environmental literacy and academic achievement in students, validating the effectiveness of environmental education in supporting and even improving academic performance;
  3. To promote environmental education as a valuable and dynamic means of engaging students in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) skills-building for success in school and future career pathways; and
  4. To foster environmental literacy, ecological awareness, and community caretaking behaviors in our future citizenry.

RIEEA is well-positioned with strong partnerships locally and nationally to lead the country in this valuable effort. The input and insights from our community are critical to the success of this project. To learn more or to get involved, please Contact Us.

In Phase One of the RI-AEL (Jan 2017–June 2018), RIEEA created a solid foundation for the continued development of this landmark project. Guided by the road map laid out in our state Environmental Literacy Plan and the strategic plan developed by New Knowledge Organization (now Knology) during our 2016 Environmental Literacy Assessment Planning Summit, RIEEA launched the project and successfully achieved the following goals: 

  1. Organized four diverse and engaged initiative steering committees comprised of stakeholders both within RIEEA and in the greater community.
  2. Developed a “Relationship Map” identifying six key sectors in the state that are important to reach and solicit guidance from on the development of the RI-AEL: Education, Environment, Health, Agriculture, Advocacy, and Business.
  3. Contracted with Worldways Social Marketing to develop a comprehensive marketing and outreach strategy, including “Talking Points” for effective outreach, a social media strategy and blog post guidelines, and digital and print marketing materials to be employed in outreach to the six sectors.
  4. Contracted with an educational survey expert, Susan Gracia, to develop and conduct the Environmental Education: Inventory of Current Practices survey;
  5. Developed a definition of high-quality environmental education that will be used to inform the RI-AEL and to assess environmental education programs going forward;
  6. Published a Case for Support for environmental education;
  7. Initiated a website overhaul that more accurately reflects the evolving work of RIEEA;
  8. Organized a Diversity Committee to ensure equity, accessibility, and inclusion across the entire project; and
  9. Assembled the RI-AEL Advisory Council comprised of experts from secondary, higher, and non-formal education and research backgrounds to guide RIEEA in this process.

In Phase Two (July 2018–June 2019), RIEEA restructured our committees to better serve our work and progress and conducted three major activities:

  1. We hosted a series of community forums to gain a better understanding of the interests, priorities, needs, and challenges of the six priority sectors we identified in Phase One, to identify how the RI-AEL can support their work, and to inform the development of the RI-AEL.
  2. We shared the Environmental Education Inventory of Current Practices survey tool and resulting data through local and national platforms.
  3. We engaged the support of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s EF Games, LLC (now Epistemic Analytics Lab) and Mass Audubon to evaluate existing online environmental literacy assessment tools, including the iPlan: Local Environmental Modeling tool, to identify an assessment tool to be piloted with K-12 students in Rhode Island (read the full report here.)

In Phase Three of the RI-AEL (July 2019–March 2021), we built upon the progress and momentum of the second phase and continued our partnership with the Epistemic Analytics Lab and Mass Audubon. RIEEA carried out a series of pilot implementations of the iPlan: Local Environmental Modeling tool with over 200 middle and high school students in Rhode Island. Through focus groups, surveys, and other discussions with participants, we showed that iPlan is easy to use, engaging, and could be used as an assessment. However, there is also more development necessary to improve student understanding, explanations, and problem-solving as well as more work to identify student problem-solving strategies and correlate those thought processes with actions in the tool. Read the full report here. 

Phase Four will include revising iPlan and testing our hypothesis at the national level. We are currently working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Epistemic Analytics Lab to seek funding to modify the tool and test our hypothesis that iPlan measures the indicators associated with environmental literacy in middle and high school students through its scalable, digital platform.

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