Maryland has a strong commitment to environmental literacy supported by state agencies, local nonprofits, universities, and of course school systems themselves. Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and their partners encourage school districts to participate 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. Self-reported data about how prepared Maryland school districts feel to implement a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy from the Maryland 2022 ELIT Survey show 73% of districts are “well prepared” and 27% are “somewhat prepared.” Results from individual school districts are also available.

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.

State-level Drivers of Environmental Literacy

The Maryland State Board of Education adopted Environmental Literacy Standards in 2011 and revised them in 2020. The standards map out the elements all students must achieve to graduate environmentally literate. To support the implementation of the standards, MSDE released the Environmental Literacy Standards Framework in 2023. Maryland is also the first state with an Environmental Literacy graduation requirement and students that graduated from high school in 2015 were the first cohort to fulfill the environmental literacy requirement.

In June 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed a brand new Executive Order establishing Project Green Classrooms (PGC). This effort renews Maryland’s commitment to environmental education by ensuring, “every child in Maryland has the opportunity to learn about their local environment, develop a connection with nature, and have a better sense of place in their natural surroundings. The initiative will promote outdoor experiential activities and environmental education through Maryland’s schools, communities, and public lands.” PGC is co-led by the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with the work intimately tied to that of the Bay Program’s Education Workgroup.

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. The MD version includes local case studies and connections to standards like Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and C3.

Environmental Literacy Plan Examples

ELit Plans can be an important way for school districts to document where environmental literacy experiences occur over a student's K-12 experience. Check out examples of ELit Plans from school districts across the region. In Maryland, review the progress Prince George's County Public Schools is taking on their Climate Change Action Plan.

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

Project Green Classrooms (PGC)

The PGC initiative is an advisory body tasked with making recommendations to state decision makers in three main areas including: supporting environmental literacy programs in schools, increasing access to nearby nature, and promoting the use of the outdoors for learning, discovery, healthy play, and career exploration.

Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE)

MAEOE is the professional organization for environmental educators in Maryland with a mission to encourage, engage, and empower the community to understand, responsibly use, and promote the natural world. MAEOE manages the Green Schools Program for the state.

Maryland Association of Science Teachers (MAST)

MAST is the Maryland state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association and has a mission of making science accessible and enjoyable to the citizens of Maryland.

State Sustainable Schools Programs

The Maryland Green Schools Program, run by Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE), is a sustainable schools program that is nationally recognized as having a significant impact on students and schools. The program is aligned with the goals of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and supports Maryland State Department of Education’s graduation requirements and standards. There are currently 664 Maryland Green Schools across the state and dozens of Green Centers that support these schools.

Maryland Green Schools can be used as a platform to apply for the national U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award and Eco-Schools USA Certification. The aim of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is to inspire schools, districts, and institutions of higher education (IHEs) to strive for 21st-century excellence by highlighting promising school sustainability practices and resources that all can employ. Eligibility information can be found on the Maryland State Department of Education’s website. Schools may also joint certify with Eco-Schools USA as they work towards Maryland Green School status. The Eco-schools program is a tiered award process that encourages schools who are challenged with the two-year process to build a portfolio of sustainable school actions to "go for" bronze or silver eco-schools awards.

Highlights of Environmental Literacy Work in Maryland

Queen Anne’s County Uses Coronavirus Relief Funding to Boost Environmental Education

When studying environmental science, it helps if students can get outside and get hands-on with the subject they are learning. Now, a new project is giving students on Maryland's Eastern Shore more opportunities to do just that. Thanks to $1 million in Coronavirus relief funding, Queen Anne's County is building new outdoor classrooms for each of its 14 schools.

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Saint Mary’s and Calvert Counties Focus on Plastic Pollution in Middle School MWEEs

“Wave of Plastic” is an education partnership program that will help Southern Maryland students understand the connections between actions on land, plastic pollution in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, and student environmental stewardship.

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Waste Warriors in Montgomery County Re-Imagine School Waste

The Coalition to Re-imagine School Waste is working to re-direct mounds of uneaten packaged fruit, vegetables, juice and milk cartons thrown away every day in school cafeterias from landfills and incinerators. The effort could also help schools save money by cutting costs for hauling trash.

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Prince George’s County creates a Climate Change Action Plan

The Prince George’s County Board of Education established the Climate Change Action Plan Focus Work Group in 2021 to develop a plan for creating and meeting the county’s climate action goals. Priorities of the Plan include reducing the school districts’ carbon emissions and integrating climate and environmental justice into the curriculum.

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