Teachers in Maryland are headed to summer school. But it's not because they need help with their reading and writing. They are taking classes and field trips to help them intigrate a new state environmental literacy standard into their lesson plans.

The standard, which the State Board of Education approved June 21, aims to teach students to examine ecosystems and make educated decisions on how to “create and maintain an optimal relationship between themselves and the environment.” It goes into effect with the coming school year.

There won't be any new testing to accompany this standard. (Did I just hear the collective sigh of relief?) Nor will the stanard require additional classes in environmental education. Rather, the goal is to ensure that Maryland schools have environmental lessons ingrained within the curriculum. The new state standard calls for teachers to work biospheres, recycling, sustainability and outdoor field trips into their lesson plans. 

Sure, that's easy enough in science class, but what about math? English? History? That's why the teachers are in summer school. Through field trips like those offered by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, teachers can visit farms, recycling plants and farmers markets to learn how to work eco-lessons in to any lesson plan.

Maryland's new standard sets the stage for the federal No Child Left Inside Act which aims to push for environmental education at the federal level. The bill, which was recently introduced in both the House and Senate by Senators Reed and Kirk, along with House Representative Sarbanes, is intended to help individual states develop and implement environmental literacy programs for students in grades K-12.

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