Pennsylvania has a strong commitment to Environmental Literacy supported by state agencies, local nonprofits, universities, and of course school districts themselves. 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 2019 ELIT Survey show 10% of districts are “well prepared,” 54% are “somewhat prepared,” and 36% are “not prepared.” More information, including specifics from each responding school district can be found on the Bay Program’s website.

State-level Drivers of Environmental Literacy

The PA Code provides policy and guidance for Local Educational Agencies to implement academic standards including the interdisciplinary Environment and Ecology (E&E) and the Science and Technology Academic Standards. Areas of study described in the E&E 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 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 resources.

Environmental Literacy Networks

Pennsylvania Task Force

The Pennsylvania MWEE Task Force is a collaborative that brings together a mix of state agencies, leading informal environmental education organizations, business and industry leaders, postsecondary institutions, and K-12 schools to advance environmental literacy in the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Education (PAEE)

PAEE is the professional organization for environmental educators in the state with a mission to unite, support, and empower the community of environmental educators throughout Pennsylvania.

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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