By Jessica Lyons
Maryland Schools Make History
After a unanimous decision, the Maryland State Department of Education became the first state to incorporate environmental literacy into its schools. The measure was originally passed in 2010 and its language was clarified in 2011.
Maryland will provide public schools with standards for having environmental literacy in their classrooms, although schools will have the freedom to design their programs and decide how to incorporate the subject. Teaching environmental literacy doesn't necessarily mean schools have to add new classes, since they can build the subject into existing classes.
How It Will Help Students
There are a couple of ways this new measure is expected to help students, including by getting them informed about the environment and issues related to it. Students who start at a young age to learn about the importance of the environment are more likely to care about it as they get older.
This knowledge is also designed to help give students the ability to make informed decisions when it comes to the environment. For example, if students have been taught in school about recycling, they could be more likely to decide to recycle their garbage than just throw it away as they get older. This could translate to citizens who make conscious efforts to protect the environment.
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Others to Follow Suit
Maryland has started setting a good example for others already. The No Child Left Inside Act of 2011 was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate to try to create environmental literacy requirements for schools throughout the country.
The nationwide environmental literacy plan would apply to pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade classes. States that already have environmental literacy plans might be able to continue to use those programs while other states would have to create new programs.
The objective would be for students to develop an understanding of the environmental challenges not only in the states where they live but also in the country as a whole. Students would have the chance to gain field experience, and the plan would include professional development opportunities for teachers.
Higher education institutions are also working to help the environment. Find out about the country's greenest colleges.