Throughout the nation, states are developing “environmental literacy plans” to help improve student understanding of the environment and the impact humans have on it. Legislation introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed in the last two Congressional sessions and likely to be introduced again this Congress would provide $100 million in annual funding to states for environmental education. Governing Magazine provides a snapshot of green education efforts :
States promoting environmental education emphasize the need to get students out of the classroom. In Maryland, for example, students visit the Chesapeake Bay to measure the water’s salinity and examine the health of its organisms. “Getting their hands dirty has the greatest impact,”Sarbanes says. “It just gets them excited and engaged.” Sarbanes and other advocates say that student excitement spills over into other areas of academics and helps kids perform better across the board.
Maine, Maryland and Oregon have completed their environmental literacy plans, and another four states will soon, Day says. The policies can be adopted in a variety of ways. Oregon’s, for example, was mandated by the state Legislature. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley ordered his state’s plan, and Maine’s plan was developed administratively. The plans don’t focus on detailed curriculum requirements. Instead, they provide broad themes the states should cover. Oregon’s plan, for example, discusses the need for students to “understand the physical and biological world, and our interdependent relationship with it.”