Baltimore, MD – Governor Martin O’Malley praised the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday on the final vote approving an Environmental Literacy Graduation Requirement. The school board vote makes Maryland the first state in the country to pass such a requirement for graduation, ensuring that every student receive a comprehensive, diverse environmental education that meets the approval of the State Superintendent of Schools.
“This is a defining moment for education in Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “By approving this environmental graduation requirement, the Board of Education is ensuring that our young people graduate with a keen understanding of and connection to the natural world. Only through exposure to nature and education about our fragile ecosystem can we create the next generation of stewards.”
The requirement provides flexibility and oversight for school systems as they develop effective programs to create environmentally literate students. Maryland students will receive vital exposure to nature through the classroom and outdoor experiences, as well as a foundation for green jobs.
Today’s historic vote cements Maryland as a national leader in environmental education initiatives, a credit to Governor O’Malley, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Grasmick, and the Board members. Combined with the Environmental Education Instructional Program for Grades Pre-K-12 established last year, this regulation provides for a more comprehensive environmental education program.
Maryland citizens and organizations across the State overwhelmingly supported this requirement during the public comment period and praised the Board for establishing this and other leading environmental education initiatives.
Under the 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 the ability to shape their programs to be relevant to their 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 the Governor’s Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature (co-chaired by the State Superintendent of Schools and the Secretary of Natural Resources) and the Maryland No Child Left Inside Coalition are collaborating to provide 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 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.
The requirement takes effect for students entering high school in 2011-2012 and will not require additional courses. School systems will inform students and parents of the requirement, ensure the environmental literacy standards are infused within existing curricular areas, and identify specific opportunities for students to address the standards within multiple disciplines. School system and Maryland State Department of Education staff will work together to create and approve a program that students can complete in each school system.
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 Conservation Jobs Corps and issued the Maryland Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. The Partnership’s report and recommendations presented to Governor O’Malley in April 2009 have led to an ambitious action plan now in place to implement many new initiatives across the State, involving multiple partners. Central to the work of the Partnership is supporting school systems as they develop their environmental literacy programs, and guiding effective and accessible outdoor learning and recreation for all.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland’s forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland’s effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state’s number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.DNR.Maryland.gov.