Learning Framework Overview

Interdependent relationships undergird all aspects of socio-ecological systems, are dynamic and shift across time, space, and levels of organization. Research shows that sensemaking across these multiple shifting scales requires intentional scaffolding, particularly for young learners and is necessary for complex socio-ecological systems learning.

NGSS practices such as observing, modeling, and data collection can support learners’ attention to webs of relationships in and across places and over time. This framework features two aspects of interdependent relationships in socio-ecological systems sensemaking: 1) quality of social and ecological relationships that expert scientists, policymakers, and communities think about; and 2) the base relationships of species and kinds that undergird interactions in a system. This framework is intended to develop learners’ relational habits of mind – that is the routinely sensemaking about interdependent relationships – and support educators, students, and their families develop a language for attending to powered and historicized relationships at the intersections of social and ecological worlds. 

Framework for Social-ecological Relationships

This framework is intended to help identify the range of social and ecological relationships that scientists, policy makers, and communities think about as they engage in everyday activities and collective deliberation and decision-making. Nature-culture relations–that is the cultural values, activities, learning opportunities, decisions, and interactions–are reflected across both social relationships with the natural world and how scientists study ecological relationships within systems. Typically, science education focuses on ecological relationships where the types of human relations and interactions are invisible to learners. Educators should use this framework to consider 1) what kinds of human relationships are shaping local learning environments (indoors and outdoors), and 2) what kinds of ecological relationships are observable and shape local lands, waters, and interactions with humans. Learners should be able to identify their own social and ecological relationships in and across the many different places they live and learn. 

Quality and Types of Social and Ecological Relationships