School Grounds for Learning

The School Grounds for Learning initiative was funded by a NOAA-BWET grant, led by the Maryland Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education (MAEOE), and supported by a partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and MAEOE with the support of national & regional partner organizations and topical experts. Designed to be used by schools, educators and organizations in any of the Chesapeake Bay watershed states (and D.C.), these comprehensive online project resources & instructions will enable students, teachers, administrators & school facilities personnel to effectively plan, utilize & sustain a vast variety of school environmental projects. All School Grounds for Learning projects are aligned with U.S. Green Ribbon Schools pillars and application requirements. U.S. Green Ribbon School tools and Eco-Schools USA Sustainability Pathway tools are imbedded in each of the project sections. Ideally, schools can work with their state green schools program while simultaneously pursuing recognition or assistance through a national program (see our Green Schools Basics page). Project categories include:

  • Projects to provide habitat for wildlife
  • Projects to support clean water
  • Projects to conserve resources
  • Projects to support a healthy school environment
  • Projects to encourage outdoor play & learning

Who developed School Grounds for Learning resources?

To ensure the content is useful and applicable for schools, educators and organizations throughout the Bay watershed, MAEOE enlisted contributors from national & regional partner organizations representing a variety of interests including education, conservation & restoration; outdoor environmental education centers working with school grounds projects; school facilities management & personnel; teachers & administrators who have developed sustainable projects on their school grounds and have integrated their use into instruction; agency & non-governmental organizations developing best practices for the enhancement of school grounds to improve water quality, increase habitat value, support innovative agriculture programs and more; landscape architects with expertise in innovative design of school grounds; and topical experts in a variety of fields.

Who is the target audience for the School Grounds for Learning Project resources?

With the support of the above-mentioned partners and contributors, these resources have been developed for use by students, teachers, administrators and school facilities personnel in any Chesapeake Bay watershed state (and D.C.) interested in effectively designing, enhancing, utilizing and sustaining environmental projects on their school grounds.

Why do we need these resources?

The School Grounds for Learning resources have been designed specifically to facilitate the effective hands-on implementation of environmental literacy (including Meaningful Watershed Environmental Education (MWEE) experiences on school grounds), the pursuit of Green School, Eco School and U.S. Green Ribbon School status, and the development and continued use of integrated, sustainable indoor and outdoor environmental learning projects that provide substantial benefit to both students and the environment:

  • Environmental Literacy: Tremendous efforts have been made in recent years to support opportunities for the development of environmentally literate students and citizens. Many states have developed Environmental Literacy Plans to provide a framework for school systems to expand and improve environmental education programs. Significant regional and local initiatives are also developing detailed strategies to support schools, teachers and administrators as they implement programs to achieve student environmental literacy and pursue more sustainable practices in school buildings and on school grounds. The School Grounds for Learning resources increase the capacity of schools and school systems to support environmental literacy standards and initiatives by providing resources to achieve these environmental literacy goals. Click here to learn more about national, regional and local environmental literacy efforts.
  • Achieving Green School Status: The effort to support and create sustainable “Green Schools” has caught fire across the nation in recent years and continues to gain momentum. Green Schools, known by a variety of names based on state and national programs, focus on developing programs and projects that conserve & restore natural resources, enhance student health & learning, facilitate environmental literacy and nurture an ethic of sustainability. The National Green Schools Network spearheads the national effort to encourage the development, expansion and collaboration of Green Schools across the country, including hosting a national conference and offering a GreenPrint “road map” for schools interested in adopting healthy, sustainable practices on a large or small scale. Many states have developed Green School certification programs, including model programs in the Mid-Atlantic region. The School Grounds for Learning project resources have been aligned with recognized Green School best management practices to support and facilitate efforts by schools to design and implement projects to qualify for Green School status in their state and/or for certification by Eco-Schools USA and/or U.S. Green Ribbon Schools. Click here to learn about more about state and national Green School programs on our Green School Basics page.
  • Achieving U.S. Green Ribbon School Status: The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award program recognizes schools with combined achievements in three “Pillar” areas: Reducing environmental impact and costs; Improving the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Providing comprehensive and integrated environmental education. The structure and content of the School Grounds for Learning resources are aligned with the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools pillars to help school staff design and implement projects that meet the requirements for a U.S. Green Ribbon Schools award application. Click here to learn more about the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award program.
  • Project Benefits for Students, Schools & the Environment: In addition to instructions, each School Grounds for Learning project section features information on a particular project’s specific uses and benefits. Across the board however, the creation and integrated use of sustainable outdoor learning environments on school grounds present tremendous benefit for students, schools, and the surrounding environment
Young school children smiling