The Commonwealth of Virginia has a strong commitment to environmental literacy supported by state agencies, local nonprofits, universities, and of course school districts themselves. Virginia 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 divisions feel to implement a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy from the 2022 ELIT Survey show 18% of divisions are “well prepared,” 63% are “somewhat prepared,” and 18% 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 Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia Public Schools establish expectations of what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade or course in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and other subjects. The SOL in certain disciplines support environmental literacy explicitly and in others implicitly. The Environmental Science Content Guidelines provide content and practice expectation for students enrolled in the secondary environmental science course.

The Profile of a Virginia Graduate describes the knowledge, skills, experiences and attributes that students must attain to be successful in college and/or the work force and to be “life ready.” There are three main facets to the Profile of a Virginia Graduate including: 1. The explicit integration of the “5 C’s” into instruction: critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and citizenship; 2. An emphasis on the development of core skill sets in the early years of high school; 3. The establishment of multiple paths toward college and career readiness for students to follow in the later years of high school, which could include opportunities for internships, externships, and credentialing.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation's Office of Environmental Education has the goal of fostering collaborative partnerships with organizations to empower both non-formal and formal educators to cultivate environmentally literate K-12 graduates throughout the state of Virginia. Currently, the office is actively crafting a comprehensive strategic plan for K-12 environmental literacy, developing an interactive GIS repository, providing a dynamic map of valuable resources across Virginia, and managing and allocating funds for the annual Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE) grant program.

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 VA version includes local case studies and connections to the Standards of Learning (SOLs).

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.

Funding Opportunities

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

Environmental Literacy Networks

Virginia Environmental Literacy Network (VEN)

VEN is a network that represents strategic parts of the statewide environmental education ecosystem. VEN’s primary goals are to improve and enhance communication channels at the state-level to advance school district-level and community environmental literacy programming. For more information about getting involved with VEN, contact Bianca Myrick ( and Candace Lutzow Felling (

Virginia Resource-Use Education Council (VRUEC)

VRUEC is a consortium of partners, including state and federal natural resource and education agencies, that support environmental literacy across the commonwealth of Virginia. VRUEC's mission is to facilitate opportunities for collaboration between formal and nonformal educators in order to support environmental literacy instruction.

Virginia Association of Environmental Education (VAEE)

VAEE is the professional organization for environmental educators in Virginia with a mission to advance environmental literacy through the power of environmental education by promoting excellence, fostering collaboration, and inspiring community engagement.

Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST)

VAST is the Virginia state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association and has a mission of promoting excellence in science teaching and learning in Virginia.

Virginia Science Education Leadership Association (VSELA)

VSELA is dedicated to ensuring an excellent science education for all Virginia students. Their membership consists of state and division level science leaders, higher education faculty, and leaders within the informal science education community.

State Sustainable Schools Programs

Virginia Department of Education solicits and selects applications from school districts across the commonwealth to nominate to the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program. More information about this process can be found on the VA Department of Education’s webpage.

Virginia Naturally (VAN) Schools is the official environmental education school recognition program of the Commonwealth, administered by the Department of Wildlife Resources. The goal of this program is to recognize the exemplary efforts undertaken by Virginia schools to increase the Environmental Literacy of its students. More information can be found on the Virginia Naturally webpage.

Highlights of Environmental Literacy Work in Virginia

Clarke County & Blandy Experimental Farms Vision for Systemic Environmental Literacy

Interdisciplinary environmental literacy curricula that span kindergarten through grade 12. Numerous educator workshops and one-on-one coaching to support teachers as they incorporate locally-relevant environmental issues and outdoor-based teaching into their instructional strategies.

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Hampton Roads Region of Virginia Becomes Site of next Outdoor Learning Network Initiative (OLNI)

The Southeastern Virginia Environmental Education Consortium aims to promote early environmental literacy. The goal is to engage students young so they develop an “environmental stewardship ethic” and are inspired to take action.

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VIMS Collaborates with University Faculty to Embed MWEEs into PreService Programs

Checking the water quality of a local creek or identifying wildlife at a nearby marsh can make for an engaging science class—but these immersive out-of-the-classroom activities also help K-12 students carry forward lessons in environmental stewardship long after the end of the semester.

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