Monday, September 26, 2011

Maryland First State to Require Environmental Literacy in Schools

I was visiting a garden center one day and I overheard an elderly couple talking about creating a butterfly garden. They were in their 70's or 80's I'd say, and they were very excited about the prospect of being able to attract butterflies to their yard. They had learned all about butterfly gardening, they said, from their granddaughter, who had learned it in school.

I love passing along that story, because I think it is such a great example of why environmental literacy is so important.

I don't remember learning much about the environment when I was in school. I do remember refusing to participate when we were asked to dissect frogs. And I remember a horrid "lesson"  that required us to follow the progress of eggs in an incubator, taking one out each day and breaking it open to see the various stages of the developing baby chick. That experience made me almost nauseous at the thought of eating eggs for many years. I honestly can't remember one thing I learned in school that helped to foster my present day love for the environment.

But much of that is changing in today's school systems, especially in the state of Maryland.

Maryland has become the first state to make “Environmental Literacy” a requirement in the school curriculum for all enrolled students as of 2011.

"The standards are very broad," said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education. "Maryland is so connected to its environment through bays, mountains and the ocean. This is just a natural progression of what we are already doing. For kids, it's always a highlight of the school year to be involved in environmental course work."

Officials said most schools and districts were already meeting the requirements, and the new standards were to ensure every student was getting the same level of education on the environment.

"Each elementary school in Anne Arundel County is building a garden for monarch butterflies, as a hook to understand monarch butterflies and ecology of the bay," said Tom Zolper, a representative of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which helped push for the requirements. "Often times kids are helping to build the gardens, then they are recording and making graphs, working it into math, social studies and biology. That's in your schoolyard, but kids are using streams that are a block away and taking nets and seeing what microvertebrate are present. "

Imagine getting kids so excited about the environment that they can go home and explain to their parents the dangers of pesticides and wasting water and other things that we didn't learn because we were following the stale old curriculums of 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. Congratulations to the state of Maryland for taking this step. I hope that other states will soon follow their path.

You can read more about this initiative from the article I found on

Or you can follow this link to take a look at the Maryland State Environmental Literacy Curriculum (Draft)

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