Environmental Literacy and HSS

An historical drawing of a city depicting several industrial smokestacks spewing smoke into the air.


Human societies have always shaped and been shaped by the natural environment. In 2004 California recognized this with the adoption of the Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs). The 2016 California History-Social Science Framework incorporates the EP&Cs within each grade-level, content narrative.

Appendix B of the California History-Social Science Framework identifies Science, Technology, and the Environment as one of the key themes in the history and geography classroom. The concise narrative of Appendix B shows how the environment has played a starring role in human history. The story of humans and their environment begins in the early Paleolithic era when humans, armed with spears or bows, were able to devastate populations of large species such as mammoths, giant kangaroos, and sloths. It continues through the development of agricultural practices that allowed humans to draw increased resources from the Earth resulting in growing populations and career specialization. The story continues even today as the effects of rapid technological changes have speeded up deforestation and overexploitation of land.

As history-social science educators it is vital we develop our students’ environmental literacy through showing its consistently integral nature to the human story. By identifying natural places within the standards at each grade-level for instruction that incorporates the Environmental Principles and Concepts and providing guidelines for engaging pedagogical strategies, these helpful resources to consider are meant to assist teachers in that charge.

In partnership with the San Joaquin County Office of Education, the Sacramento County Office of Education is creating resources for educators to infuse environmental literacy into their history-social science instruction.

Helpful Resources to Consider

California Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI)

Appendix B of the California History-Social Science Framework (263k PDF)

Appendix G of the California History-Social Science Framework (278k PDF)

A California mountainside that is being mined for gold using hydraulic mining techniques that were utilized during the 1870s.
A large industrial complex that is spewing pollution along California's Humboldt coast in 1972.