In the Classroom
EE Resources for Teachers

EIC: Using the Environment as an
Integrating Context for Learning

EIC designates a pedagogy that employs natural and socio-cultural environments as the context for learning while taking into account the "best practices" of successful educators. EIC-based learning is not primarily focused on learning about the environment nor is it limited to developing environmental awareness. It is about using a school's surroundings and community as a framework within which students can construct their own learning, guided by teachers and administrators using proven educational practices. EIC programs typically employ the environment as a comprehensive focus and framework for learning in all areas:

* general and disciplinary knowledge;
* thinking and problem-solving skills;
* basic life skills, such as cooperation and interpersonal communications;
* understanding of and appreciation for the environment.

EIC programs use:

  • interdisciplinary integration of subject matter that breaks down traditional boundaries between disciplines;
    problem and issue-based learning experiences that offer both hands-on and minds-on experiences;
  • teams of teachers collaborating to connect together instruction and learning;
  • learner-centered, constructivist approaches adapted to the needs and unique abilities of individual students;
  • combinations of independent and cooperative learning;
  • the environment, local natural and community surroundings, as the "venue" for connecting together these proven pedagogies, to improve teaching and learning.

2000/2001 EIC Schools in Minnesota

  • Bagley Elementary School, Bagley
  • North Shore Elementary, Duluth
  • Belle Plaine Elementary, Belle Plaine
  • Mary MacDonald Elementary, Silver Bay
  • Rippleside Elementary, Aitkin
  • Prairie Winds Middle School, Perham

2002 EIC Schools in Minnesota

  • Red Lake Middle School, Red Lake
  • Red Lake High School, Red Lake
  • Odyssey Charter School, Brooklyn Park
  • St. Michael/Albertville Middle and High School, Albertville
  • Cleveland Quality Middle School, St. Paul
  • Cook County Schools (Elementary and Middle), Grand Marais
  • Mora High School, Mora
  • Achieve Language Academy, St. Paul
  • Harding High School, St. Paul

2003 EIC Schools in Minnesota

  • Great Expectations School, Grand Marais
  • Riverway Learning Community, Minnesota City
  • Voyageurs Expeditionary High School, Bemidji

Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning

Closing the Gap report cover

PDF 900KbExecutive Summary

Overview of the Report:
This report, prepared by the State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER), is the story of the schools, teachers, and students involved in implementing EIC. It presents the results of a nationwide study and describes the major concepts and assumptions underlying EIC. In profiling a range of successful EIC-based programs across the United States, the report identifies the major characteristics of successful programs and analyzes the implications of EIC-based education for student learning and instruction.

Environment as an Integrating Context for learning (EIC) defines a framework for education: interdisciplinary, collaborative, student-centered, hands-on, and engaged learning. EIC, a term coined by the SEER, encompasses the educational practices that the group believes should form the foundation of environment-based education in America's schools. This framework has begun to transform curricula in a growing number of schools across the United States and may have the potential to significantly improve K-12 education in America.

EIC-based learning is not primarily focused on learning about the environment, nor is it limited to developing environmental awareness. It is about using a school's surroundings and community as a framework within which students can construct their own learning, guided by teachers and administrators using proven educational practices. EIC-based programs typically employ the environment as a comprehensive focus and framework for learning in all areas: general and disciplinary knowledge; thinking and problem-solving skills; basic life skills, such as cooperation and interpersonal communications; and, last but not least, understanding of one's relationship to the environment - community and natural surroundings.

Closing the Achievement Gap reports the evidence gathered from the study of the 40 selected schools, indicates that students learn more effectively within an environment based context than within a traditional educational framework. This evidence comes from site visits, interviews, survey results, and gains on both standardized test scores and GPAs.

The observed benefits of EIC-based programs are both broad ranging and encouraging.

  • better performance on standardized measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies;
  • reduced discipline and classroom management problems;
  • increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning;
  • greater pride and ownership in accomplishments.


By providing a comprehensive educational framework instead of traditional compartmentalized approaches, EIC significantly improves student performance throughout the curriculum and enriches the overall school experience.




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