Eyes Wide Open—A New Educational Resource for Examining Environmental Challenges

Climate literacy is critical for young adults growing up in today’s climate challenged world. Children’s book author, Paul Fleischman, came into Earth Day Network to chat about his new book, Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines. In today’s world, and with new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards now required in more ard more classrooms, up to date materials to educate young people are in great demand. Eyes Wide Open could be a much needed tool in an educator’s toolkit. Fleischman spoke with us about why he decided he had to venture into the world of education and environmental issues. He also talked about why he believes his approach is a much-needed tool for educators and young adults alike. For Fleischman, the challenge came in the form of bees – dying bees – in his own backyard. As he struggled to find the answers to this disturbing phenomenon, he realized that he needed specific critical thinking tools to be able to think through the masses of information about environmental issues he encountered. As he struggled to find his answers and think about solutions, he realized that he wanted to share his experience with young adults so they too could be able to sort through complex information and make informed decisions. Fleischman’s concept goes beyond the traditional environmental education categories based on science, policy and law. Unlike the typical subject headings seen in environmental books, Fleischman points out that Eyes Wide Open has chapters on “Perception” and “Defense Mechanisms.” Also, by using examples from the environmental world, Fleischman encourages readers to think about content and source. In his mind, vested interest is the most important critical thinking concept in the book. He writes, “These are the stakes—the financial or emotional investment—we have in an idea, a policy, a business, a political party.” The result coincides with a new educational emphasis. Educators are integrating across disciplines, where issues are discussed not only in science class but also in social studies, math, and English. The basis for this approach is that when concepts are taught across subject lines, students can better understand the big picture. As Fleischman points out, “[with environmental issues] money turns out to be as important as molecules.” To paraphrase his point, “How can we teach environmental education without equipping students with a basic understanding of economics?” “Eyes Wide Open” equips its readers with a literal toolbox of critical thinking skills so that they can develop their own informed opinions about environmental issues. Encouraging young adults to apply these skills to think independently is paramount to creating a sustainable world. – Johanna Bozuwa