Governor Martin O’Malley commended the Maryland State Board of Education for approving an Environmental Literacy Graduation Requirement that provides flexibility and oversight for school systems as they develop effective environmental literacy programs.
The Environmental Literacy Graduation Requirement will ensure Maryland students receive vital exposure to our natural world through the classroom, provide a foundation for green jobs, improve student health and have an overall impact on Maryland.
“I applaud the Board of Education for approving this ground-breaking proposal,” said Governor O’Malley. “Enacting this environmental graduation requirement ensures that our young people graduate with a demonstrated understanding of the natural world and their place in it, and is another step toward keeping Maryland’s education system in the forefront, developing green jobs and creating the next generation of stewards.”
The new language for the requirement will be published soon for a required public comment period before the state board conducts a final vote. Maryland citizens and organizations across the state have overwhelmingly supported this requirement in the prior comment period; and praised the Board for establishing the Environmental Education Instructional Program for Grades Pre-K–12, making Maryland a national leader in environmental education initiatives.
Under the new graduation requirement, public schools will be required to infuse core subjects with lessons about conservation, smart growth and the health of our natural world. Local school systems will have flexibility in how these programs take shape in each county, but all will align with standards set by the State. Every five years, the local school systems will report to the State to guarantee that students are meeting the requirements.
The State can implement the new requirement without additional funding or staff. Partner groups like Maryland’s No Child Left Inside Coalition are already working on providing resources and tools to make this easier for local school systems. The new requirement will position the State for much-needed federal funding through the No Child Left Inside Act currently before Congress.
“The Chesapeake Bay Trust applauds the leadership of Governor O’Malley and the co-chairs of Maryland’s Partnership for Children in Nature, Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, in advancing this nationally significant environmental literacy requirement for the State of Maryland,” said Allen Hance, Executive Director of the Trust. “For the past 25 years, with support that Marylanders provide through the purchase of Treasure the Chesapeake license plates, the Trust has made grants to support environmental education initiatives in schools throughout Maryland. We look forward to working collaboratively with local school systems and their partners to implement high-quality, comprehensive environmental literacy programs for students across the state.”
The impact these new guidelines will have on Maryland students is threefold:
- Research has shown that environmental lessons, integrated into a standard curriculum, will have a positive impact on student achievement in core subjects such as reading, math and social studies.
- Student overall health is improved by taking the classroom outside and exposing them to outdoor recreational learning activities.
- The new guidelines will provide critical tools for a 21st century workforce, giving students not only the skills they need for green jobs, but a broader understanding of the problems our natural world faces and how they can take action through their daily lives to conserve those resources.
“I also want to thank Don Baugh, vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and president of the Maryland and National No Child Left Inside Coalition for his outstanding leadership on this issue,” said Governor O’Malley. “This is just one piece of the puzzle. Every child deserves the right to discover and enjoy our natural world. The No Child Left Inside Coalition has made important strides towards ensuring Maryland children connect with nature.”
To ensure all Maryland young people have the opportunity to connect with their natural world and grow to become informed and responsible stewards, Governor Martin O’Malley established the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature in 2008. Under the initiative, which is now being used as a national model, the Governor created the Maryland Civic Justice Corps and recently issued the Maryland Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. The partnership’s report and recommendations were presented to Governor O’Malley in April 2009, and an ambitious plan is now in place to implement many new initiatives across the state, involving multiple partners.