Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley met with environmental educators from across the state on July 2nd to discuss environmental education in Maryland schools and the role of teachers and students in restoring Maryland waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Using science-based curriculum within the Maryland State Department of Education, Governor O’Malley hopes to partner with schools to foster environmental literacy through community alliances and volunteer efforts as part of a long-term restoration effort.
“There is no state that has a bigger or more beautiful sustainability challenge then we have with the Chesapeake Bay,” Governor O’Malley said in his opening remarks to educators. “I need your help, and I think together we can figure this out.”
With advanced GIS tracking systems and elementary-friendly environmental science technologies such as oyster gardens, floating wetlands and stormwater buffers, teachers across Maryland have been able to incorporate environmental literacy into their lesson plans. Science teacher Pam Deringer has been teaching her fourth-grade students more about the environment through programs such as National Geographic’s Field Scope, a web-based GIS system piloted in 2008. Field Scope is a tool that enhances scientific investigations through interactive activities that allow students to create maps based on their own fieldwork in collaboration with their peers and other science professionals. Through the use of Field Scope students have been able to go into local watersheds, collect their own data and use it to update and monitor the quality of Maryland waterways.
The luncheon, held at the Miller Senate office Building in Annapolis also featured a roundtable discussion. During the discussion teachers were encouraged to ask questions, voice opinions and suggest ideas for future environmental literacy curriculum. Some of these ideas included adopting local streams or waterways surrounding the schools to create environmental learning opportunities for teachers and students. Allowing schools to monitor local watersheds and report on water quality would give students the opportunity to learn the importance of getting involved in bay restoration.
Genea Harrison, a fourth-grade student at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School named the first-ever Governor for a day, spoke of her experiences growing up on the Chesapeake Bay and some actions that can be taken to restore the Bay. Genea emphasized planting trees as a natural deterrent to polluted stormwater runoff and as habitat for wildlife. She also talked about enforcing a no-litter policy in the Bay or near stormdrains, and planting oyster gardens to enhance the Bay oyster population.
Governor O’Malley’s goal is to give students and teachers the tools they need to incorporate environmental literacy into their daily lives both at school and at home. In partnership with organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Trust and programs like Field Scope, Stream Health and Bay Stat, Governor O’Malley hopes to give environmentalists and educators everywhere the opportunity to make an even bigger difference.