Watershed Voice Fall 2012 - Environmental Literacy

Watershed Voice
Fall 2012
Beyond Books

Environmental Education Takes Center-Stage 

Maryland State Department of Education Science SpecialistA participant in CBF's Environmental Leadership for Principals program.

Less than two weeks before school starts, many teachers and administrators aren't vacationing with their families or enjoying a day at the beach. They are working, committing long, hard hours to prepare for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Last week, more than 160 education professionals gathered in Western Maryland at Rocky Gap State Park. Administrators, supervisors, teachers, and environmental educators from across the state convened to refine their skills as instructional leaders charged with the development, revision, and implementation of their PreK-12 environmental literacy program. All 24 county school systems in Maryland sent a team of representatives from their Local Education Agency (LEA). Each county sent approximately five people to the summit, including science supervisors, social studies supervisors, service-learning coordinators, teachers, and more.

The Environmental Literacy Summit was hosted by Allegany County Public Schools with funding received from a Math-Science Partnership grant from the Maryland State Department of Education. Surrounded by beautiful nature including mountains and the 243-acre Lake Habeeb, educators were inspired to tackle the task at hand.

According to Gary Hedges, science specialist for the Maryland State Department of Education, "the summit and the regional meetings, scheduled to follow in the fall and spring, provide support to LEAs as they develop and implement their PreK-12 environmental literacy program. By sharing strategies among LEAs and leveraging the resources available through various partners including parks, state agencies, museums, higher education institutions, extension offices and other environmental education providers, school system personnel can move their programs forward by developing more robust curricula, and improving teacher professional learning experiences as well."

This is an exciting time for environmental education. Every county in Maryland is preparing to implement their environmental literacy plan. While there will be common elements, each county has flexibility in how they will ensure that every high school graduate meets the state requirement for environmental literacy. Many school systems are refining existing courses to include a transdisciplinary approach to tackling complex environmental issues in the classroom. Some school systems are developing new courses to meet the requirement.

In Somerset County, a new course has been developed for 9th graders. Worcester County is striving to include outdoor educational experiences for every child, every year. Wicomico County is applying for grant money to provide new content, equipment and field experiences for 8th graders. And the list goes on.

Every county is committed to provided professional development for teachers, too. Technology is being utilized to teach content in innovative ways. Environmental issues are being discussed not just in science class but, also, in social studies, math, reading and art classes. The environment provides an integrating context for learning. And while global issues are being taught, care is taken to give many topics a local focus, making issues like climate change more relevant. Our changing climate is affecting all of us in a variety of ways. The process of understanding who the stakeholders are, their multiple viewpoints and perspectives, and reviewing a slew of potential actions which may help us mitigate or adapt to our changing climate, will help prepare students for tackling complex environmental issues in the future.

Fostering an informed citizenry, with the skills necessary for critical thinking and problem solving, will benefit us all. We are all part of nature, not separate from it. The "environment" is not some wholly-separate thing. It includes each of us.

If you'd like to learn more, please contact Carrie Samis at csamis@mdcoastalbays.org. Samis serves as a state liaison for environmental literacy on the Lower Eastern Shore. Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

���Carrie Samis
Reprinted with permission. Original from Delmarvanow.com

If you'd like to learn more, please contact Carrie Samis at csamis@mdcoastalbays.org. Samis serves as a state liaison for environmental literacy on the Lower Eastern Shore. She is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

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