District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has a strong commitment to environmental literacy supported by District agencies, community partners, universities, and of course schools themselves. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and their partners encourage participation in the biennial collection of data, known as the Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT), to understand the landscape and inform efforts to advance the implementation of environmental education. In both the 2017, 2019, and 2022 ELIT Survey, DC Public Schools reported being “somewhat prepared” to implement environmental education. In DC Public Schools, there is a systemwide MWEE in place at the elementary school level, and some MWEEs available in both middle and high school, but are not yet systemic. In addition to the public school system, there are 66 charter school local education agencies.

To review progress of the environmental literacy efforts across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, visit Chesapeake Progress which uses ELIT Survey data only from districts within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

District-level Drivers of Environmental Literacy

The DC Healthy Schools Act of 2010 recognizes that the environment plays a central role in supporting learning outcomes and maintaining life-long, healthy behaviors. The Act called for the development of the DC Environmental Literacy Plan, a road map that lays the foundation for district-wide implementation and integration of environmental and sustainability education into the K-12 curriculum. The plan was created in 2012, adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia as part of the Sustainable DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2014, and subsequently updated in 2017 and 2020. The 2023 update will be released in early 2024.

The Environmental Literacy Framework was developed in 2014 as the next step towards the implementation of the Environmental Literacy Plan. By providing place-based applications to science content, students will have a better understanding of the relevant health, economic, and environmental concerns of the local and global community and will be prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

Resources for Advancing Environmental Literacy

Facilitator’s Guide to MWEE Training

The Facilitator's Guide to MWEE Training is a modular resource to support consistent MWEE training across the region.

Curricular Resources

DC maintains high quality resources for integrating environmental literacy including the Environmental Literacy Guides (preK-5), High School Environmental Science Instructional Sequences, and Environmental Literacy Units.

Environmental Literacy Model (ELM) Samples

The ELM is a comprehensive planning document that articulates the trajectory of a MWEE. Find and use exemplar ELMs developed by teachers and educators from across the region for inspiration.

Funding Opportunities

The Funding page lists regional and state grants to support MWEEs and environmental education programs.

Environmental Literacy Networks

Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Environmental Literacy Program (OSSE ELP)

OSSE has its own Environmental Literacy Program which assists schools in the implementation of the DC Environmental Literacy Plan by providing environmental education guidance, training, and technical assistance.

DC Environmental Education Consortium (DCEEC)

DCEEC is the professional organization for environmental educators in DC with a mission to bolster a network of environmental and conservation educators, increasing their capacity to provide meaningful environmental education for the residents of the District of Columbia.

State Sustainable Schools Programs

Capital Leaders in Environmental Actions for our Future (LEAF) is a recognition program for green, healthy, and sustainable District schools. Schools monitor progress on their journey to develop a green and healthy school environment and they engage students, staff, and the community to collect evidence, document changes in school culture, and celebrate successes. Capital LEAF also provides a pathway for schools to be nominated for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School recognition.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Environmental Literacy Program assists schools in applying for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program. Each cycle OSSE will nominate up to five preK-12 schools or districts, one of which may be a private or independent school, and one college or university for ED-GRS. More information about this process can be found on OSSE’s webpage.

Highlights of Environmental Literacy Work in DC

DC Identifies Opportunities for Supporting Outdoor Learning

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), Division of Health and Wellness (H&W) provides resources for District public and public charter schools to establish outdoor learning spaces to engage students in outdoor learning.

Visit dc.gov for more information

Environmental Literacy Leadership Cadre and Alumni Schools

Established in February 2016, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Environmental Literacy Leadership Cadre is a group of individuals from elementary schools across the District who coordinated the development and implementation of the Environmental Literacy Framework at their schools.

Visit dc.gov for more information

DC’s Systemic MWEE in 5th Grade Reaches All Public and Charter Schools

The 5th Grade Overnight Watershed Experience is a free program that provides DC Public and Charter School 5th grade classes a three-day, two-night overnight field study.

Visit dc.gov for more information