Environmental Mandate To Have Little Local Impact

BERLIN – State school board officials this week approved regulations requiring environmental education in public schools in Maryland, but the new mandate will likely have little affect in Worcester where “green” issues are already woven into the curriculum.

The Maryland Board of Education on Tuesday approved regulations mandating environmental education in public school across the state. The mandate does not require new courses at each grade level dedicated specifically to environmental education and passing course work will not be a requisite for graduation. In addition, environmental topics will not be added to standardized tests statewide.

Instead, the state school board is requiring environmental studies be woven into traditional classes such as science and social studies, for example. The intent is to give students at a young age a greater awareness of environmental issues that have become such a big part of the fabric of society in recent years.

“We made a big step in saying it must be in the curriculum, that every student must have that exposure prior to graduation,” said State Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick. “Let’s weave it through the curriculum and bring it to a younger age.”

According to the mandate, students will have to learn about ecosystems, natural resources and the impacts of a healthy environment on their own health. They will also learn “how their personal and collective actions affect the sustainability of ecological, economical, political and social systems.”

While the mandate could change how environmental studies are taught in many areas of Maryland, particularly in urban and suburban areas, the new regulations are not expected to have a great impact in Worcester County.

“Because of the nature of much of our area, we recognize the importance of teaching our students about their environment,” said Worcester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes. “As a school system, we already infuse environmental issues into most of our course work at nearly every level.”

Andes said students are naturally exposed to environmental issues at an early age because of their unique relationship with the ocean, beaches and coastal bays. He pointed out Berlin Intermediate School, for example, has won a “green school” award the last few years and many of the schools work on projects in conjunction with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Grow Berlin Green, for example.