Michael Robinson, Ph.D.
Professor of Secondary Science Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Nevada
Reno, Nevada, 89557
Tomasz Trojok, Ph.D.
Electrical Engineer
Walcownie Metali, Dziedzice
ul. Hutnicza 13
Czechowice-Dziedzice 43-502
Jan Norwisz, Ph.D.
Poszanowania Energy Foundation
ul. Bohaterow Getta Warszawskiego 9p.608
Gliwice 44-100



    The negative impact on the biosphere as a result of increasing population and consumption is becoming more apparent each year. For the last 14 years, the yearly issue of State of the World (Brown, 1997) has tried to raise the awareness level and understanding of citizens of the world to the seriousness of global environmental problems. Furthermore, over the past six years, Vital Signs (Brown, Renner & Flavin, 1997) has provided previews and trends of global issues/problems. Education in the US, Germany, the UK, Japan and in general most of the developed countries is beginning to give more importance to developing student awareness and understanding of science based environmental issues/problems. In the early 90s Germany announced new regulations for local education authorities and the UK announced changes in the national science curriculum, both of which included guidelines to help students achieve a greater understanding of environmental education. For example, in the UK "pupils should consider current concerns about human activity leading to pollution and the effects on the climate, including .... the disposal of waste products on the earth, in its oceans and the atmosphere" (National Curriculum of England and Wales, 1991).

    In spite of increased media attention in the US to environmental issues such as global warming, water pollution and health and disease, there is little evidence that secondary schools in the US are teaching more classes in ecology and environmental science or infusing more science based environmental issues into traditional courses in earth science, biology, chemistry and physics. The new National Science Education Standards (NSES) (National Research Council, 1996) do emphasize the need for students to become more scientifically literate with the ability to "identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technically informed" (page 22). Inquiry is also the preferred learning model of the NSES. The NSES emphasizes " inquiry as a way of achieving knowledge and understanding of the world" (page ix).

    Bybee (1984) suggested 12 global environmental issues/problems around which science knowledge and process might be taught (Table 1). Student awareness and knowledge of Bybee's 12 issues fits within the broad science education goals of promoting science literacy and learning science through inquiry. Science teachers who are familiar with the 12 problems expect student attitudes about their importance to be related to the personal experiences students have had with them. For many years, educators have realized that the growth of student knowledge and understanding of science is closely tied to the personal experiences of students (Brooks & Driver, 1984; Neisser, 1976; Pope & Gilbert, 1983). The Constructivist Learning Model (CLM), suggests that learning is a social process during which students use what is already known to make sense of new experiences (Tobin, 1993). Science teachers who adhere to the CLM might expect student attitudes about the importance of environmental issues/problems to be related to the personal experiences the students have had with the problems.

Table 1. Global Environmental Issues/Problems

AIR QUALITY AND THE ATMOSPHERE (acid rain, CO2, depletion of ozone, global warming, etc.)

ENERGY SHORTAGES (synthetic fuels, solar power, fossil fuels, conservation, oil production, etc.)

EXTINCTION OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS (reducing genetic diversity)

HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES (waste dumps, toxic chemicals, lead paints, etc.)

HUMAN HEALTH AND DISEASE (infectious and non-infectious disease, stress, diet and nutrition, exercise, mental health, etc.)

LAND USE (soil erosion, reclamation, urban development, wildlife habitat loss, deforestation., desertification, etc.)

MINERAL RESOURCES (non-fuel minerals, metallic, and non-metallic minerals, mining, technology, low grade deposits, recycling, reuse, etc.)

NUCLEAR REACTORS (nuclear waste management, breeder reactors, cost of construction, safety, etc.)

POPULATION GROWTH (world population, immigration, carrying capacity, foresight capability, etc.)

WAR TECHNOLOGY (nerve gas, nuclear development, nuclear arms threat, etc.)

WATER RESOURCES (waste disposal, estuaries, supply, distribution, ground water contamination, fertilizer contamination, etc.)

WORLD HUNGER AND FOOD RESOURCES (food production, agriculture, cropland conservation, etc.)

    Support for the importance of personal experience to student rankings of environmental problems is suggested by the work of Holman (1993) in a curriculum project called "Science Across Europe." In 1993, the project was being used in 10 European countries and some of the information it dealt with included the environmental problems of acid rain, water pollution, energy intensity and global warming. Students in the 10 countries responded to common questions regarding environmental problems. As expected, their responses indicated that environmental problems are indeed perceived differently by students depending on where they live and their personal experiences with the problems. For example, according to Holman, students in Switzerland did not think global warming was a problem whereas students in The Netherlands, where dikes are already needed to hold back the sea, saw global warming as a big problem.

    Science education can play a role in helping the current generation of students understand the importance of collective global environmental problems that all students should be aware of and understand in spite of their personal experiences with the problems. Perhaps, more importantly, using science education to provide information and experiences about global environmental problems may offer the potential for helping students to realize the need for a global ethic that supports environmental sustainability (French, 1994).


    This study was carried out in secondary schools in Katowice Province in Poland. Before getting into the details of the study, a little background information about the Polish secondary science curricula is given.

    In the secondary science curricula, science is taught as separate subjects in biology, chemistry and physics but these science disciplines are taught concurrently, just as in most other European countries, not as a separate year for each subject as in most of the US. In Poland, all students have to take some science classes in high school and science curricula are being revised to include more work in ecology and environmental protection for all students. The new topics are intended to be infused into the existing curricula in science but so far this is rarely done. Just as in the US, teachers need retraining to effectively teach in these areas and funding for such training is not generally available.

    One goal of the Ministry of Education is to improve science instruction by using more hands on activities in teaching science as well as by using a greater variety of instructional strategies besides lecture. In the last few years, the Polish states (provinces) have been charged with setting up Educational Councils to investigate educational needs of municipalities, develop curricula, retrain teachers and provide materials for carrying out instruction in specific local needs. For example, in the Katowice Province of Upper Silesia in southwestern Poland, where some of the worst pollution in Central Europe is present, more courses in environmental protection are needed in the schools so students will become more aware of the severe pollution problems of the air, water and land.

The Research Questions

    The reasons for the problems may differ, but both the US and Poland have many of the same environmental problems, most of which are covered within Bybee's 12 issues. Those in the US are generally due to over consumption; relative to the rest of the world, high energy intensiveness, when compared to Western Europe and Japan; and a much larger population. Generally those in Poland developed or were intensified during the communist era in the 45 years after World War II when industrial progress was pursued with little regard for the future environmental problems that it might provoke. This paper reports and interprets the priorities given to Bybee's 12 environmental problems by 720 secondary school students and teachers in Upper Silesia, Poland. The paper attempts to show the relationship of personal experience with the environmental problems to the priorities given to the rankings. The results of the rankings will (1) suggest what the Polish secondary students and teachers perceive as the most and least important of the 12 environmental problems; (2) offer insights about the impact and relationship of personal experience in science learning in school; and (3) give Polish science educators a gauge for measuring what might be included in science curriculum and instruction to better inform students about collective environmental problems.




    The study took place in the cities of Gliwice and Czechowice-Dziedzice in Katowice Province, Upper Silesia, Poland (Figure 1). The Polish authors made the arrangements for the 720 students and teachers in four different types of schools (Primary, Professional, Technical and Lyceum) to take part in the study. The US grade equivalents and an explanation of the four types of Polish schools used in the study are roughly as follows: Polish Primary schools are equivalent to grades 1-8 (ages 7-15) and compulsory for all students. Students may start some vocational education programs in upper Primary. Professional, Technical and Lyceum schools are all part of secondary education but they lead to different career tracks. Students enter secondary education after completion of primary education and successfully passing a matriculation exam. Professional schools are similar to US vocational schools. They have three to four year programs that train students for technical occupations. Historically, the programs were closely aligned with the needs of local industries which in the past also supplied the schools with some material and technical help. The Technical High Schools are five year programs that lead to white collar technical jobs and/or engineering and other technical career studies in the Polytechnic Universities. In the US, technical high schools or magnet schools with science and technical programs would probably be the closest equivalent. Lyceums are academic high schools that lead to liberal arts study at the university level for those students who score high enough on their exit exams (Republic of Poland Ministry of National Education, 1992).




    The four different school types included a total of nine different schools in the two cities of Gliwice and Czechowice-Dziedzice. The nine school subgroups of students (N=720) ranked the importance of Bybee's 12 global problems. An additional group of 36 of their teachers also took part in the study. Twelve of the teachers were from Gliwice and 24 were from Czechowice-Dziedzice. A personal data sheet was given to each student and teacher to determine age, gender, information about their sources of information on environmental problems in Poland (students only), and formal courses in ecology and environmental problems. In the group of 720 students, 333 were males and 387 were females. In the teacher group, 33 were females and three were males. The age range for the students was 11-18 with an average age of 16. The age range for the teachers was 22-57 with an average age of 36. The students and teachers were broken down into the following groups and subgroups (Table 1).

Table 2. Groups and Subgroups by Location and School Type

        In Gliwice (N=220)
                Subgroup One -   Lyceum                         (N=100)
                Subgroup Two -   Primary School (14-15yrs)      (N= 35)
                Subgroup Three - Primary School (12-13yrs)      (N= 21)
                Subgroup Four -  Technical High School          (N= 52)
                Subgroup Five -  Teachers                       (N= 12)

        In Czechowice-Dziedzice (N=536)

                Subgroup One -   Technical High School          (N= 63)
                Subgroup Two -   Lyceum                         (N=117)
                Subgroup Three - Professional School            (N=111)
                Subgroup Four -  Primary School (14-15yrs)      (N=122)
                Subgroup Five -  Primary School(12-13yrs)       (N= 99)
                Subgroup Six -   Teachers                       (N= 24)

The Instrument

    The survey with Bybee's 12 environmental problems (Table 1) was translated from English to Polish by a US Consulate approved translator. A brief introduction on how to fill in the survey was given by the Polish authors. Instructions were also printed at the top of the survey. A space was provided at the left of each of the twelve problems for students and teachers to place a number from 1-12 to rank the issues.

    When ranking the 12 problems the students and teachers were instructed to rank the three most important issues with one, two and three. They were then asked to rank the three least important problems with a 12, 11 and 10. Last, they were asked to rank the middle six with numbers four to nine. The subjects were not given special instructions on how to rank the problems such as how important they were to them personally, whether they were local problems or whether they were global problems.


    When all subjects who ranked the problems (N=756) were lumped together regardless of age, location, sex, or level of schooling, the following mean scores (average rankings of the 12 problems) were obtained (Table 3).

    The top three problems were Air Quality and the Atmosphere (A), Hazardous Substances (D), and Extinction of Plants and Animals (C) in that order. The three least important problems were Mineral Resources (G), Energy Shortages (B) and Population Growth (I) respectively. There was little difference in the rankings accorded to the Extinction of Plants and Animals (C), Human Health and Disease (E) and Water Resources (K) as the third most important issue or World Hunger and Food Resources (L), War Technology (J) and Population Growth (I) as the third least important problem.

Table 3. Results of the Rankings

Environmental       Code                      
                     All sub.  Gliwice  Czech  Female    Male  Tea
                     ________  _______  _____  ______    ____  ___ 
                      N=756      220     512    420       336  36

                                  Average Rank

Air Quality & the    A  1.920    1.92   1.92    1.90      1.95  2.36
Hazardous Substances D  3.521    3.78   3.42    3.41      3.66  4.06
Extinction of Plants C  5.199    5.16   5.21    5.20      5.20  7.17
  and Animals
Human Health and     E  5.399    5.74   5.26    5.21      5.63  5.28
Water Resources      K  5.550    5.35   5.63    5.28      5.89  4.92
Land Uses            F  6.940    7.20   6.83    6.52      7.46  7.70
Nuclear Reactors     H  7.091    6.73   7.74    7.60      6.45  6.14
World Hunger &
  Food Resources     L  8.019    7.77   8.12    7.70      8.35  6.47
War Technology       J  8.116    8.09   8.13    8.59      7.53  7.31
Population Growth    I  8.207    8.12   8.25    8.12      8.29  9.17
Energy Shortages     B  8.591    8.55   8.61    8.83      8.30  8.10
Mineral Resources    G  9.312    9.55   9.22    9.36      9.26  9.39

    Table 4 gives a breakdown of responses according to the percent of subjects in each group who ranked the issue in the top three. Eighty-six percent of the students ranked Air Quality (A) as one of the top three environmental problems. Sixty-five per cent of the students ranked Hazardous Substances (D) as on of the top three problems, and 38 per cent of the students ranked Extinction of Plants and Animals (C) as one of the top problems. Less than two per cent of the students ranked Mineral Resources (G) as either one, two or three in importance, Eight per cent of students ranked Population Growth (I) as one of the top three problems of importance. When results of the rankings of the two main groups of subjects (Gliwice and Czechowice) were compared, there was no difference in the top three or bottom three problems. The middle six issues showed some variation. The agreement between the two cities on ranking of the issues was very high.

Table 4. Student, Teacher,  and Gender Rankings of the Top and Bottom Three Problems by Percent

Environmental    Code Rank                    %  Ranked 1-3
                                  Students   Females   Males   Teachers
                                   N=720       420      336       36
Air Quality &
  the Atmosphere   A   1             86         88       86       77
  Substances       D   2             65         67       50       50
Extinction of
  Plants & Animal  C   3             38         31       40       39(K)

Mineral Resources  G  12             <2         <2       <2        0
Energy Shortages   B  11              8          6        5(L)     8(I)
Population Growth  I  10              5          6(J)     5       17(B)
War Technology     J    
Water Resources    K

    When male and female students were compared, some differences in the rankings occurred. Among female students, War Technology (J) was considered less important than Population Growth (I). Among male students Nuclear Reactors (H) was considered more important than Land Use (F), and World Hunger and Food Resources (L) was considered the second least important issue.

    The teacher rankings differed slightly from the student rankings. The two top issues were the same but teachers ranked Water Resources (K) as the third most important issue and Extinction of Plants and Animals (C), which was third for students, as seventh. Among the least important issues, teachers ranked Land Uses (F) as ninth, and Population Growth (I) as eleventh. There was not generally as much consensus among the teachers as to the importance of Air Quality and the Atmosphere (A) and Hazardous Substances (D) as the top problems. The teachers had more consensus about the lack of importance of Population Growth (I)

    When the nine subgroups were compared there was considerable agreement across age, location and type of institution (see Table 5). In all cases Air Quality and the Atmosphere (A) was the overwhelming choice as the number one environmental problem. In all but one case, Hazardous Substances (D) was second. The only exception was the Primary class of 12-13 year old students in Gliwice which chose Extinction of Plants and Animals (C) as second and Water Resources (K) as third. In most cases students selected either the Extinction of Plants and Animals (C), four subgroups chose it; Human Health and Disease (E), two subgroups chose it; or Water Resources (K), three subgroups chose it; for the third most important issue. In regard to the least important issues, again there was a considerable degree of consistency across age and schooling. Three subgroups chose Mineral Resources (G), Energy Shortages (B) and Population Growth (I) as the least important issue. The most obvious variations that occurred included (a) 12-13 year old students (Primary) in Gliwice who chose War Technology (J) as the least important issue, and (b) 12-13 year old students (Primary) in Czechowice and 14-15 year old students (Primary) in Gliwice, who chose World Hunger and Food Resources (L) as the least important issue.

Table 5. Subgroup Comparisons by School Type and Location

Code             GLIWICE                           CZECHOWIC
      Lyceum    Tech     Prim   Prim       Lyceum  Tech    Prof   Prim   Prim

N       100       52      35     21          117     63     111    122    99
Age    16-18    15-16    14-15  12-13       16-17   16-17  16-18  14-15  12-13
A       1.78    1.58     2.14   2.81        1.74    1.67     2.14  1.69  2.23
D       3.54    3.67     3.31   6.00        3.08    3.25     3.63  3.16  3.79
C       5.55    4.35     4.91   4.66        5.39    5.62     5.28  5.15  4.27
E       6.00    5.61     5.51   5.62        6.05    5.59     4.72  4.79  5.26
K       4.69    6.00     6.03   5.52        5.15    5.54     5.66  5.63  6.46
F       7.25    7.87     6.80   6.29        6.69    7.59     7.24  6.55  6.08
H       6.50    7.52     6.46   6.90        7.39    5.73     7.84  7.29  7.51
L       7.77    7.58     9.03   6.67        7.81    8.51     7.64  8.39  8.90
J       7.95    8.04     8.29   9.05        8.08    7.08     8.09  8.59  8.52
I       8.11    7.71     8.46   7.76        8.57    8.95     8.00  7.75  8.12
B       8.91    8.46     8.23   7.62        8.77    8.71     8.34  9.26  8.03
G       9.89    9.48     8.83   8.95        9.23    9.76     9.39  9.21  8.71



    The Katowice Province, located in Upper Silesia, is the most densely populated province in Poland. It contains approximately 1,250,000 people below age 18; in at least 43 towns and 10 small cities in an area of approximately 1,000 square miles. Katowice (approximately 600,000) people, is the largest city in the area. The province has 10 per cent of Poland's nearly 40 million people on 2.1 per cent of the land. About 3,000 industrial plants and mines are concentrated in Upper Silesia, mainly in the Katowice Province. For the past 200 years, most recently the communists and earlier the Germans, most of Poland's industry has been located in this area because of the rich coal deposits. Current heavy industry in Katowice Province includes chemical plants, over 150 coke plants, iron smelters and steel mills, coal mines (65), heat and power plants, cement factories and non ferrous ore mines and smelters (Celinski, 1992).

    According to Osuch-Jaczewska & Baczynska-Szymocha (1992), the main environmental factors affecting the people in Katowice Province, are air pollution, water pollution and soil contamination. Recent research by Perera, (1996) indicates that Upper Silesia is one of the most polluted areas in the world and has a high death rate from cancer.

Air Pollution

    Katowice Province, is known to have some of the most severe air pollution of any area in Europe and the rate of asthma and other breathing disorders is the highest in Poland. According to Chorazy (1992), at least three million of the four million people in Katowice Province are exposed to air pollution that poses a particular health hazard.

    The problem of air pollution is directly experienced and according to students in the nine schools it is discussed by parents and presented on television and in print news. The national curriculum, now changing to local control, does not mandate that teachers include information about air pollution and other environmental science problems in science classes.

    During the Winter months the rate of respiratory problems in children increases significantly and parents often keep their children indoors during especially polluted periods. The relatively high ranking given by students to Human Health and Disease may also be partly related to the respiratory problems many children and adults have. The air pollution is caused mainly by the burning of coal which is greatest in the Winter.

Hazardous Waste

    The high priority given to hazardous waste is also presumably related to direct experiences of students and teachers living in Katowice Province and perhaps their knowledge of the long history of industrial development in Upper Silesia (sometimes referred to as "Black Silesia").

    Because of the large number of coal mines and the continual mining of coal and ferrous and non ferrous metals that has gone on for over 200 years in this area, much of the landscape is covered with mine tailings. In fact many of the vegetation covered low hills spread throughout the towns and cities are actually mine tailings. Commercial crops as well as personal gardens are often planted in areas that are contaminated by both lead and zinc mine tailings and heavy metal laden dust from power plants and smelters. Of the heavy metals surveyed, lead and cadmium were in the highest concentrations. According to Misch (1994), lead is considered to be a major environmental health threat in most of Eastern Europe.

Extinction of Plants and Animals

    The damage to forests caused by acid rain and the loss of aquatic life in the two main rivers have frequently been reported in the media. Upper Silesia has lost portions of native forests in three periods over the last three centuries. The most recent period of accelerated environmental degradation began when Upper Silesia was returned from Germany to Poland after World War II and the area became Poland's most important industrial area.

    Fish species (i.e. trout and salmon) that were formerly abundant in the rivers are no longer present in the Katowice area but are still found in the mountains above the industrial areas. The two largest rivers in Poland, the Oder and Wistula, have their headwaters South of this area in the Carpathian Mountains in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Water Quality

    In spite of the many water pollution problems in Katowice Province, water resources were not consistently listed in the top three environmental problems by the students. Considering the high priority given by the government to water resources, it is surprising that it was not ranked higher. Most households are still not metered and water resources may have been interpreted by students as quantity of water, not quality. Students are also not old enough to remember when recreation requiring clean water was available.

    Teachers did list water resources as a strong third priority. Perhaps they have had more direct experiences in seeing this valuable resource deteriorate. In discussions with older Poles, earlier times were mentioned when the lakes and rivers were clean enough to swim in and eating the fish was safe. In the winter of 1994 the Wistula River; which also runs through Katowice Province, Krakow and Warsaw; froze over for one week during a February cold spell. Local residents said that was the first time it had happened since the 1950s before large amounts of brine water from the deep coal mines began to be pumped into the river. Recently some of the less productive coal mines have closed and the river is now less saline.

Mineral and Energy Resources

    Mineral Resources and Energy Shortages were not seen by students and teachers as important problems even though they are both recognized as bottlenecks for development in most of the less industrially developed world. In spite of an energy intensiveness double that of the US (Juda & Buzuki, 1990) and four times that of most of Western Europe, a shortage of energy is not immediately foreseeable, especially if Poland continues to becomes more energy efficient. Both students and teachers recognized the important role of abundant coal reserves in meeting Poland's foreseeable energy needs. It is only since the end of the communist era (1989) that Poles have been charged for home heating. The heat still can not be regulated in many apartment buildings and the only way to cool down a warm room is to open a window even in dead winter. The price of gasoline is more than double the price in the US but only one-sixth the per cent of Poles as Americans own cars and their cars are much smaller and average better gas mileage.

Population Growth, World Hunger and Food Resources

    Two areas of surprise were the very low rankings for population growth and world hunger and food resources. Regarding population, several ideas are presented that may help explain why Poles do not think of Poland as overly populated. As mentioned earlier, the area surveyed is the most densely populated in Poland and Poland has nearly 40 million people in a country a little larger than Pennsylvania in land area. Still, when compared to some other European countries such as Germany or The Netherlands, Poland is only relatively crowded.

    Moreover, with few cars, compared to the US and Western Europe, as well as the high population density of Polish cities, it is generally easier to get around both in and between cities. The main mode of travel is by bus and light rail within the cities, and train and bus between cities. With compact development and less strict zoning laws than the US, there is little urban sprawl and a city of nearly a million, such as Krakow, covers much less land area than US cities with equivalent populations.

    Poland has not had food shortages and food rationing since the early to mid 1980s and it is assumed that the students in the survey were too young to remember direct experiences with those shortages.

    The recent break-up of the Soviet empire, the thaw in the cold war, and a reduction is arms and defense budgets in the US and Russia may have given cause for some optimism regarding War Technology (J).


    Students and teachers (N=720) in nine schools in Katowice Province ranked air pollution and hazardous waste as the two most important of Bybee's twelve environmental problems. They also ranked energy resources as the least important environmental problem even though most heating and electricity is from coal burning which is responsible for a majority of the air pollution and much of the hazardous waste. Furthermore, they noted that very little of their information about these or any other environmental problems came from school. Instead, over one-half of the students who responded to the question in the personal data sheet, regarding sources of information, said they most of their information about environmental problems came from TV, newspapers and magazines. One school that took part in the study, a technical high school in Gliwice, Upper Silesia, was a prep school for students who planned to go to a Technical University to study environmental engineering. They were the students who had taken the most formal classes in ecology and environmental protection. Those students rankings of the 12 environmental problems were no different than the rankings of the students in the other eight schools.

    The results of the Polish student and teacher rankings of Bybee's 12 environmental problems corroborate the results of a study centered in Taipei, Taiwan (Bowen, Chang & Huang, 1996). Their results in a study of 278 university students indicate that personal experience is the best predictor of the priorities given to Bybee's 12 problems. Their research also indicates that a "treatment" prior to ranking the problems causes students to take a broader or more global view toward the issues and may intensify feelings but does not change the priorities given to the issues.

    It appears that students in both Poland and Taiwan gave the highest ranking to those problems with which they had the most personal experience and may have directly affected their lives. In Katowice Province in Poland, the high level of agreement on the top and bottom three problems across cities, schools, males and females and the student and teacher subgroups gives support to the influence of comparable personal experiences for ranking the 12 problems.

    There is also a close match with the most important environmental problems cited by Polish scientists and the rankings given by the students and teachers. The subjects were not given criteria for ranking the problems but the results of the rankings of two most important problems, air and hazardous substances, point to personal experience as the criterion used. Moreover, the high level of consensus between subgroups also appears to support the need for inquiry as a science teaching method, especially since most students cited information outside of school as being the most responsible for what they knew about environmental problems, e. g. information from television, newspapers and magazines. Providing students with more planned experiences in and out of school, regarding the problems, may prove helpful in giving students a more global perspective about the priorities given to environmental problems. The experiences can be formal, such as class investigations in a school setting, or informal such as field trips to zoos, factories, museums, nature centers, research facilities, a wildlife refugee or anywhere that enables students to understand more about the relationship between people and the environment. Likewise the high level of agreement across subgroups for those issues that were ranked lowest offers support for the use of the CLM in science teaching. Presumably, students and teachers ranked those issues lowest with which they had the least personal experiences and that they felt had no impact on their lives.

Bybee's Studies

    Bybee has published a number of studies that involved scientists and engineers, science educators and college students. The study that involved science educators (Bybee, 1987) provided validity for the 12 environmental issues/problems.

    When US scientists and engineers (Bybee, 1984), US science educators (Bybee, 1987) and international science educators (Bybee, 1986a) ranked the 12 problems; they ranked population as the number one or two problem, perhaps because they had the education and experience to recognize that it compounds all other problems faced by humankind. The other top rankings in these three studies were given to problems that involve basic human needs; air, water and food. When US college students ranked the 12 problems (Bybee, 1986b) air quality was ranked number one, followed by world hunger and food resources and war technology. Population growth was ranked seventh. In Bybee's studies, both science educators and US college students ranked mineral resources as number 12. This was during a time when ideas about consumption, resource depletion, environmental sustainability, growth and world carrying capacity had not become educational and media issues in the US.

Applications to the Secondary Science Curriculum

    Regarding the needs of Polish citizens, one might ask how the information in this study can be used to make beneficial changes in the Polish science curricula? The curricula in Biology and Hygiene, and Environmental Protection were changed significantly beginning in school year 90/91 through an updated and revised curricula from the Polish Ministry of Education (Republic of Poland Ministry of National Education, 1992). The changes affected specific classes at the secondary level but there appears to be no current coherent environmental education curriculum that covers all students in the primary and secondary levels. There are no overriding goals for all of science education and what students learn in school is dependent on the course of study. For example, those secondary students who are specializing in biology and chemistry get a different program on environmental protection than those in the humanities.

    Although this study illuminates the environmental priorities of secondary students in Katowice Province, Poland, several related questions regarding Polish environmental science curriculum reform remain unanswered and need further study. 1. Would more ecology and environmental protection classes with a wider range of environmental experiences make individuals take a more global view? 2. Do students begin to develop a more global perspective when they become more sophisticated as adults or must they be educated about a variety of environmental problems at an earlier age (the responses of Polish teachers did not support the increased sophistication with age hypothesis)? 3. Would a global or regional environmental science curriculum lead to changed attitudes in students concerning the priorities given to global environmental problems?

    Answers to these questions will depend upon the goals and educational objectives that Polish authorities and parents have for the students currently in the schools, particularly those in Upper Silesia, but in the rest of Poland as well. If it is desired that students develop a broader understanding of the importance of global environmental problems, with the hope that this will lead to environmental sustainability and a better quality of life, a number of things can be done in cooperation with education authorities, industry and the Polish government.

Final Remarks

    This paper has identified and discussed Polish student and teacher priorities of Bybee's 12 environmental problems in two cities in Katowice Province. Pertinent background on the Polish educational system and extended background information on the problems were also presented to provide insight into the priorities given to the problems. Reasons why the current science teaching model must be changed if the science curriculum is to provide more understanding of Bybee's twelve environmental problems was also addressed.

    As Poland evolves from a centrally planned economy to the open, free market economy associated with western democratic society it seems apparent that the educational system must also change. Problems related to a long history of industrialization and more recently, under the communist system, poor environmental policy, are currently being addressed. But, these problems might be addressed more effectively with a more science literate populace. To this end, just as in the US, the authors recommend that science literacy and inquiry become overriding goals for Polish science education if citizens are to become better informed and better able to act on the environmental problems they confront daily.

    The ability of Poland to come to grips with her severe environmental problems is still in doubt. The government faces a dilemma as to whether it should provide more information and support better education about environmental problems. Even when the government has reliable information on environmental risks, the leadership may feel they do not have the means to do much about the risks, so why alarm the people. Except by moving people out of the most polluted areas (Katowice province), little can be done. Moreover, whatever is done is very expensive to a government with few resources. With the collapse of communism, this same problem is being faced in Russia and other Eastern European countries besides Poland. In spite of increased awareness and knowledge, environmental problems continue to be created and must be addressed in all parts of the world. Improved curriculum and instruction in science education can only provide part of an answer that must also involve commitment and responsibility from government and industry.



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About the authors. . .

    Mike, Tomasz and Jan met in August of ’92 in Ustron , Poland in an exchange program sponsored by the US National Academy of Science (NAS) and the Polish Academy of Science (PAN). They were together again in Berkeley, California for the follow-up program in the summer of ’93. Since then, Mike has been to Poland four more times, one of which was a Fulbright at which time the data for this paper was gathered. The two-part NAS/PAN program was devoted to Energy Efficiency research during the transition from communism to democracy in Poland. Ten participants from each country were to design joint research projects in areas of energy efficiency or other environmental problems/issues common to both countries. Mike’s interest in Bybee’s 12 environmental problems led to a joint project with Tomasz and Jan that used subjects in Polish schools.
    Mike is a professor of secondary science education at the University of Nevada in Reno. He has lived and worked in four foreign countries as a science teacher and high school principal or school director in American Overseas Schools. His research interests, presentations and publications include environmental science and curriculum and instruction.
    Tomasz is married to an elementary science teacher and he has had a long-term interest in elementary science education. His company encourages his science presentations and other service to public schools in Poland. As an electrical engineer and scientist for a Polish non-ferrous metal fabrication plant, he has over 20 industrial patents.  As a side note, the plant he works for exports slot machine tokens to Nevada.
    Jan is an environmental engineer who is currently the director/owner of a small company that does consulting with factories interested in reducing pollution. During the NAS/PAN program he was a scientists and professor of environmental science with the PAN and he has many presentations and publications in pollution abatement. He received his doctorate at the University of Toledo during a study abroad sponsored by the US and Poland.

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