PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Gold Rush is part of California’s history so it’s not surprising that kids there learn about it. But this approach is new. They examine subjects showing how mining and extraction practices created dead lakes in the state, combining science and social studies through environmental education while learning new vocabulary such as “potable.”

Since 2004 more than 1,000 people, 6 state agencies and 19 school districts have helped create 85 environmental teaching units, K-12, putting the state far ahead of every other—beginning with assumptions that we should be conserving natural resources like water and energy and discussing controversial issues like use of nuclear power.

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The emphasis is on looking for solutions. A question such as how much water is used in washing a car or clothes or taking a shower leads to group ideas for saving water.

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Jim Elder, director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy in the Harvard Education Newsletter says that the goal is to empower kids to make the right decisions, but it’s their choice if they’re going to buy an SUV or a Toyota hybrid.

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Reported By Dr. Marciene Mattleman, KYW Newsradio