Maryland Environmental Literacy Requirement: Origin & Development

Maryland’s environmental literacy requirement builds on a proud tradition of increasingly effective and embedded environmental education. Maryland has had an environmental education bylaw in place since 1990, rewritten in 2008-09 to reflect new environmental literacy standards. This bylaw defines the program requirements for multidisciplinary environmental education instructional programs for grades pre-kindergarten through 12. However, while many students were able to participate in exemplary environmental education programs across Maryland, not all students had access to these programs.

In 2008, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley issued a groundbreaking executive order establishing the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature to ensure all Maryland youth have the opportunity to connect with the natural world and become informed and responsible stewards. Co-chaired by the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the State School Superintendent, with 22 members representing diverse organizations across the state, the Partnership was charged with developing and implementing a plan to provide youth with structured and unstructured opportunities for outdoor recreation & learning and a state environmental literacy plan. That same year, the Maryland No Child Left Inside Coalition formed to support Partnership efforts, comprising over 250 organizations representing education, environment, recreation, religion, youth, health and business interests across Maryland.

In 2009, the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature Report & Recommendations was released to the public. The Partnership’s report and recommendations led to the continuing implementation of many new initiatives across the state, including the development of a state environmental literacy plan and passage of the first environmental literacy high school graduation requirement in the nation. This requirement now mandates that every local public school system in the state must now provide a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education program infused with current curricular offerings and aligned with state environmental literacy standards.

Learn more about the development of Maryland’s environmental literacy plan and other initiatives to connect youth with nature:


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