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Bay Blog: environmental education

Jul
18
2013

Experts work to improve environmental education across Bay watershed

Environmental education is essential to restoring the Chesapeake Bay: students who learn about the nation’s largest estuary will become the next generation of citizen stewards. But without best practices in place for teaching students, training teachers or gauging the success of outdoor learning efforts, it can be hard to ensure watershed states are on the same stewardship track.

Last summer, a group of experts convened by the Chesapeake Bay Program discussed the best practices that can improve and assess environmental literacy, outlined in a report released this week.

The researchers and evaluators, supported by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), described the essential underpinnings of environmental education and the practices that can drive positive results, from connecting students to the places they live to fostering the belief that they can improve the natural world. 

Image courtesy Dave Harp

The Bay Program has formally supported environmental education for close to two decades. Its Education Workgroup recently published the Mid-Atlantic Elementary and Secondary Environmental Literacy Strategy, which sets forth a series of steps to reverse “nature deficit disorder” and equip students with the desire and skills needed to address environmental issues later in life.

The plan was written in response to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order and calls for the engagement of students in environmental issues like energy use, automobile emissions and urban and suburban runoff. It calls for the increased access of educators to professional development. And it calls for the movement of schools toward sustainability, whether it is a building that has a net-zero environmental impact or grounds that have a positive effect on the health of students, staff and the surrounding community.

Read more about environmental education in the literacy strategy or the STAC-supported workshop report.



Sep
26
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Irvine Nature Center (Baltimore County, Md.)

Tree stumps to step over and drum circles to join. Slate easels to draw on and animals to meet. Hollow logs to climb through and dirt to dig in.

What kid wouldn’t love it here?

Image courtesy Irvine Nature Center/Facebook

The Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Md., has joined a growing list of nature-inspired organizations that encourage kids to explore, respect and protect the environment. Thanks to a growing body of research that supports the benefits of unstructured play and child-nature interaction, places like the Irvine Center—with its trails, garden and outdoor classroom—are popping up all over, getting kids to play in fields and forests instead of on plastic and asphalt.

The idea? When given the chance to roam and run in natural places, kids will learn about and come to love the outdoors, becoming curious environmentalists and new stewards of our watershed.

Image courtesy Irvine Nature Center/Facebook

The Irvine Center’s exhibit hall, green building and 116 acres of woods and meadows are open to the public; the Irvine Center’s outdoor classroom is open to members and to those who participate in the organization’s programs.

More from Irvine:

  • Use this leaf hunt or PumpkinFest as your first excuse to visit Irvine! And check out the center’s calendar of events for more family-friendly programs.
  • Schedule an overnight campout at Irvine. Your friends and family will love the chance to take in the great outdoors in Baltimore County’s beautiful Caves Valley.
  • Know a teacher itching to bring nature into the classroom? Irvine staff—and their animals!—lead student programs in area schools and offer instruction to teachers on how to integrate environmental education into their lesson plans.
  • Adults love nature, too! Look into Irvine’s continuing education courses, which offer adults the chance to learn about ecology and environmental education.
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



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