Pennsylvania has a strong commitment to Environmental Literacy supported by state agencies, nonprofits, universities, and school districts. The Pennsylvania Department of Education 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 school districts feel to implement a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy from the 2022 ELIT Survey show 6% of districts are “well prepared,” 56% are “somewhat prepared,” and 38% are “not 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 PA Code provides policy and guidance for Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to implement academic standards including the interdisciplinary Science, Technology & Engineering, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability (STEELS) standards. Areas of study described in the STEELS standards include but are not limited to: watersheds and wetlands, environmental health, humans and the environment, agriculture and society, and integrated pest management.

In 1993, the General Assembly enacted the Environmental Education Act which named the two agencies of the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources along with PA Department of Education as primarily responsible for ensuring that all citizens have equitable access to quality environmental education opportunities.

PA also has a state Environmental Literacy Plan that was developed in 2015 and is currently undergoing revisions. It was drafted by the Pennsylvania Advisory Council for Environmental Education (PACEE) under the guidance of the Department of Education.

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 PA version includes local case studies and connections to the state standards.

Environmental Literacy Plan Template

The ELit Plan Template is a resource for school districts to use as a baseline for designing written plans that document where environmental literacy experiences occur over and students K-12 experience.

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.

Pennsylvania Gateway to Green

The Pennsylvania Gateway to Green website serves as an online hub for Pennsylvania educators to connect with hyper local environmental literacy resources and opportunities. It includes the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Education’s Find EE Near Me with almost 500 providers.

Funding Opportunities

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

Environmental Literacy Networks

Pennsylvania Environmental Literacy Network (PA ELit)

The PA ELit Network is a collaborative that brings together staff from state agencies, nonformal educators, formal K-12 teachers and school districts, business and industry leaders, and postsecondary institutions, to advance environmental literacy in the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Education (PAEE)

PAEE, Pennsylvania’s affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), is the professional organization for educators in the state with a mission to unite, support, and empower the community of environmental educators throughout Pennsylvania. PAEE hosts an annual conference and provides professional development opportunities throughout the year. Additionally, the Find EE Near Me resources boasts almost 500 providers and is easily accessed by those seeking environmental education partners.

Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association (PSTA)

PSTA is the state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association and has a mission of connecting, informing, supporting, and advocating for science educators and students in Pennsylvania.

State Sustainable Schools Programs

The Pathways to Green Schools Program provides recognition to schools across the commonwealth as they design, build, and implement their school, district, or institution’s environment literacy and sustainability plans. Pennsylvania Department of Education nominates as many as five Pre-K-12 schools or districts annually to the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program. More information about this process can be found on the PA Department of Education’s webpage.

Highlights of Environmental Literacy Work in Pennsylvania

Allegheny College Facilitates Afterschool MWEEs Through ‘Creek Connections’ Program

Creek Connections regularly works with regional middle and high school teachers to conduct environmental education outreach, including water quality monitoring. We have grown a lot in the last 25+ years that we have been in existence.

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Outdoor Learning Network Initiative (OLNI) Partnership Strengthens Environmental Education in Lancaster County

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has unveiled a new program designed to work with educational and conservation partners to connect students and teachers in Lancaster County to fun and meaningful learning opportunities outdoors.

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