Maryland Is the First State to Require Environmental Literacy

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The Maryland State Board of Education now requires that each public school student be environmentally literate before he or she graduates from high school.

The historic 2011 vote cemented Maryland as the first state in the country to approve a graduation requirement in environmental literacy, a credit to Governor O'Malley, to board members, and to Dr. Nancy Grasmick, the former State Superintendent of Schools.

The state school board vote clarified for schools that each child must receive a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education that meets the approval of the State Superintendent of Schools. Regulations given final approval by the board provide critical flexibility and oversight for school systems as they develop effective environmental literacy programs aligned with the Maryland State Environmental Literacy Standards.

While many exemplary environmental education programs already exist in some Maryland schools, not all students had access to these programs. That can occur when schools feel compelled to emphasize math and reading instruction over science and other subjects because of the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law. School districts must now move beyond standard courses that provide minimal focus on the environment. With programs that use an interdisciplinary approach, CBF's education programs are the ideal way for classes to get experience outside and to tie classroom lessons to real world situations. Whether the topic is STEM (Science, Technolocy, Engineering and Mathematics) material, local literature, or even music, using the environment as an integrating context brings local issues to life and now directly helps students graduate.

Studies show environmental education has a measurable, positive impact on student achievement not only in science but in math, reading, and social studies. Business leaders also increasingly believe an environmentally literate workforce is critical in a burgeoning green economy. Field experiences and related activities, when part of the regular school curriculum in environmental education, also help students become healthier.

"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."

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