September 27, 2010
The Maryland State Board of Education voted unanimously to integrate a comprehensive environmental education program into all K-12 school systems, reported The Baltimore Sun.
The program, which was supported by the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, will not require students to take any additional classes. Instead, environmental education will be added into existing courses. According to The Washington Post, students will learn about ecosystems, natural resources and health as well as analyze how actions affect ecological, economic, political and social systems.
The Washington DC Examiner noted that the curriculum is intended to provide "a comprehensive, multidisciplinary environmental education program infused with current curriculum offerings and aligned with the Maryland Environmental Literacy Curriculum." Examples of topics that will be covered include "Flow of Matter and Energy"; "Humans and Natural Resources" and "Environment and Society".
Although students do not have to pass any additional tests to graduate, the regulation requires that all students complete a local project that "protects, sustains, or enhances the natural environment," stated The Washington Post.
Moreover, The Washington DC Examiner pointed out that starting 2015, superintendents will have to prove that requirements are being met. Such reports will be required from school districts every five years.
There has recently been a nationwide push to include more environmental topics inside the classroom, noted The Washington Post. In Virginia, environmental education is incorporated throughout the school system's curriculum. Furthermore, an initiative called "No Child Left Inside" was recently proposed to provide federal funding for students to take their environmental education outside of the classroom and into the natural environment.
According to The Washington DC Examiner, many districts already teach environmental topics. Six-graders in Montgomery County, for example, have overnight trips where they test water quality, plant native species, and do predator-prey simulations, said Laurie Jenkins, supervisor of the outdoor and environmental education program for Montgomery County Public Schools. State board spokesman Bill Reinhard said the recent regulation adds additional protection to ensure that all school systems are keeping up. "What the board did today was kick [it] up a notch, and make systems accountable so we can make sure no one's dropped the ball," he explained.
According to The Baltimore Sun, board members did not make environmental studies a requirement for education because they did not want students to have less flexibility to shape their high school program. Additionally, financial literacy recently became a requirement. "I think we are starting to overwhelm the system," said board member Donna Hill Staton.
Conversely, some board members had hoped for stronger requirements. Ivan C.A. Walks said, "I don't know how many things are as important as people understanding the environment." If the regulation had been passed the way the Chesapeake Bay Foundation had intended, Maryland would have been the first state in the nation to have an environmental graduation requirement.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Environment to be added to state curriculum," baltimoresun.com, September 21, 2010, Liz Bowie
"Maryland schools must offer environmental education," washingtonexaminer.com, September 21, 2010, Lisa Gartner
"Maryland sets requirements for comprehensive environmental education," washingtonpost.com, September 22, 2010, Michael Birnbaum