First in the Nation
In 2011, Maryland became the first state in the nation to pass an environmental literacy high school graduation requirement. This mandate says every local public school system in the state must provide a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education program infused with current curricular offerings and aligned with state environmental literacy standards.
Origin and Development
In 2008, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley issued a groundbreaking executive order establishing the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature to ensure Maryland's youth have the opportunity to connect with the natural world to become informed and responsible stewards.
The partnership was charged with developing and implementing a plan to provide youth with structured and unstructured opportunities for outdoor recreation and learning and a state environmental literacy plan. In 2009, the partnership's Report and Recommendations was released and led to implementation of many new initiatives, including a state environmental literacy plan.
Implementation and Support
MSDE, Project Green Classrooms and Partners continue to support school systems across Maryland with Environmental Literacy implementation. School systems are identifying gaps and defining how programs will be progressively strengthened. MSDE is developing a new environmental literacy website featuring a list of lead county ELP coordinators, the status of county ELPs, and comprehensive resources.
The School Grounds for Learning Project (SG4L) funded by NOAA-BWET provides dynamic online instructional resources enabling schools to effectively design, enhance, utilize and sustain a vast array of environmental projects on school grounds in an effort to facilitate the effective hands-on implementation of environmental literacy. Bay Backpack for resources.
Maryland COMAR In 2020 the State Board of Education approved and updated the Environmental Literacy COMAR. There are now 5 Standards that are independent of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the standards guide school districts for curriculum integration.
.01 Environmental Literacy Instructional Programs for Grades Prekindergarten — 12.
A. Each local school system shall provide in public schools a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental literacy program infused within current curricular offerings and aligned with the Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards.
B. The Maryland Environmental Literacy Program shall:
(1) Provide a developmentally appropriate instructional program with opportunities for outdoor learning experiences;
(2) Advance students’ knowledge, confidence, skills, and motivation to make decisions and take actions that preserve and protect the unique natural resources of Maryland and of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed; and
(3) Provide for the diversity of student needs, abilities, and interests at the early, middle, and high school learning years and shall include all of the Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards as set forth in §C of this regulation.
C. Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards.
(1) Environmental Issue Investigation and Action. Environmentally literate students investigate environmental issues in order to develop and implement local actions that protect, sustain, or restore the natural environment.
(2) Human Dependence on Earth Systems and Natural Resources. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of how Earth’s systems and natural resources support human existence.
(3) Environmental Impact of Human Activity. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of the environmental impact of human activities on Earth’s systems and resources.
(4) Consequences of Environmental Change on Human Health and Well-Being. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of the consequences of human-induced environmental change on individual and collective health and well-being.
(5) Individual and Collective Responses to Environmental Change. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of individual, collective, and societal responses to human-induced environmental change.
D. Each local school system shall establish a support system to enable teachers and administrators to engage in high quality professional development in content knowledge, instructional materials, and methodology related to environmental literacy.
E. Student Participation. All students shall have the opportunity to participate in the comprehensive environmental literacy program required by this chapter.
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Environmental education integrated into a core curricula can improve student achievement in science, reading, math, and social studies.