In June 2010, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, which prioritizes the health and wellness of students throughout the District. The Healthy Schools Act calls for an environmental literacy plan for the District – a road map that will lay the foundation for District-wide implementation and integration of environmental education into the K-12 curriculum.
Environmental literacy is the development of knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to make informed decisions concerning the relationships among natural and urban systems.
An environmentally literate person:
- discusses and describes ecological and environmental systems and human impacts on these systems;
- engages in hands-on, outdoor learning experiences that involve discovery, inquiry, and problem solving;
- formulates question and analyzes information pertaining to his or her surrounding environment; and
- understands how to take actions that respect, restore, protect, and sustain the health and well-being of human communities and environmental systems.
An environmental literacy plan (ELP) creates the framework for standards, achievement, professional development, assessment, and leadership for individuals and organizations to thrive and achieve innovation in education.
On July 2, 2012, the Mayor’s office transmitted the final draft of the DC ELP to DC Council. The District’s Sustainable DC Plan (2013) includes implementation of the ELP as a vehicle to reach its Equity and Diversity goal to “ensure that all school-age children in the District are educated in sustainability and prepared for a changing green economy.” Two years after the ELP was drafted, DC Council passed the Sustainable DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2014, which included the “Environmental Literacy Plan Adoption” Act, which creates a new program and staff within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to further develop and implement the Environmental Literacy Plan first developed under the Healthy Schools Act.
In September 2017, OSSE released the first updated DC Environmental Literacy Plan. The plan describes:
- Relevant teaching and learning standards adopted by the State Board of Education;
- Professional development opportunities for teachers;
- How to measure environmental literacy;
- Governmental and nongovernmental entities that can assist schools; and
- Implementation of the Plan.
The DC Environmental Literacy Plan is the local component for regional and national environmental literacy efforts, such as the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order 13508, the 2014 Chesapeake Watershed Agreement and the No Child Left Inside Act of 2015. Combined, these road maps will empower future generations to make effective environmental decisions and become caretakers of our natural resources.
OSSE continues to collaborate with the Department of Energy and Environment, DC Public Schools, DC Public Charter School Board, DC State Board of Education, DC Department of Parks and Recreation, the University of the District of Columbia, Department of General Services, Department of Employment Services, the DC Environmental Education Consortium, and other community stakeholders to implement this plan.