Maryland High Schools Go Green for Graduation

Annie Stoller-Patterson is an intern in the Education Department of Earth Day Network

Next September, members of the Class of 2012 will return to Maryland public schools to finish their last year of high school.  But this year, their education will look a little bit different: Maryland high schools have gone green. 

On Tuesday June 21st, the Maryland State Board of Education voted for new requirements for all high school seniors: they must be ‘environmentally literate’ in order to graduate. Beginning in the fall of 2011, teachers will be required to address environmental issues in a variety of topics from science to civics.  The Board is still in the process of defining what exactly makes a student environmentally literate, but it is certain that schools across the state will be expanding their classrooms to include the great outdoors.  The hope is that students will learn about global environmental issues as well as address, and perhaps even become involved in, local acts of environmental stewardship.

Those worried about the state budget were pleased to hear that this new requirement will not necessitate any additional teachers, classes, or funding; these lessons will simply be integrated into already existing subjects.  It has yet to be determined exactly how the state will measure the success of this requirement, but for now schools will be required to submit a report every five years detailing the ways they are complying to the new standards. 

This environmental literacy requirement was created with the support of the No Child Left Inside Coalition (NCLI).  NCLI was formed in 2007 to raise awareness about the need for environmental education for children of all ages.  The Coalition currently represents more than 50 million Americans and works toward passing legislation that would require environmental education programs in all public schools. 

Maryland is the first state to integrate environmental learning directly into the school system to create a more environmentally conscious group of young adults but 48 states are in the process of following this example.  While this requirement shows that environmental education is more than just a fad, it also points to the fact that environmental lessons transcend traditional subject divisions, for they can be related to more than just science.  Want ideas about how to integrate environmental lessons into unexpected subject areas?  Check out Earth Day Network’s lesson plans for green art, literature, and even math!  Is your school ready to integrate environmentalism into more than just curriculum? Maryland has shown us that environmentalism and education make the perfect pair.  Who will be next?