NH Environmental Literacy Plan 2012

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    New Hampshire

    Environmental Literacy Plan

    A Collaboration of:

    Environmental Literacy Plan Working Group

    New Hampshire Environmental Educators

    New Hampshire Children in Nature Coalition

    Endorsed by the New Hampshire Board of Education

    18 April 2012

    www.NHEnvironmentalLiteracyPlan.wordpress.com

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    Executive Summary

    Environmental literacy requires an understanding of the natural world and the capacityto interpret environmental systems. An environmentally literate citizen can makeinformed decisions about the environment based on scientific, aesthetic and ethical

    considerations while bearing in mind the interconnectedness of the social, cultural,economic and political systems.

    Environmental literacy is gained throughenvironmental education, an interdisciplinaryapproach to education that employs hands-on, outdoor, place-based and inquiry-basedlearning experiences in order to understandthe environment as a whole. Incorporatingnumerous content areas, environmentaleducation uses real-world experiences, giving

    students a chance to explore the matters athand to gain experience investigating,defining and creating solutions to issues.

    Environmental education not only buildsenvironmental literacy but also increasesoverall student engagement and motivation,leading to improved academic achievement inall subject areas. In addition, learning aboutand from the environment encouragesoutdoor activities, which improve both

    physical and mental health.

    Since the 1970s, an active group of education professionals in New Hampshire hasused the environment as a context of learning. Members of New HampshireEnvironmental Educators (NHEE) haveactively been providing resources andprofessional development opportunities to alleducators. The New Hampshire Children inNature Coalition brings togetherorganizations and individuals who arededicated to connecting children, youth and

    families to the outdoors. Members of thesetwo organizations, other educators andindividuals joined to form the EnvironmentalLiteracy Plan (ELP) Working Group in orderto draft New Hampshires plan. Afterengaging stakeholders through variousmeans, a draft was created, reviewed and ispresented here.

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    New Hampshire's EnvironmentalLiteracy Plan provides anorganized framework to ensureenvironmental literacy for all peopleoutlined by the six Key Areas of the

    plan. Key Areas 1 and 2 ensurethat environmental literacy activitiesaddress state education goals andare aligned with student graduationrequirements. Key Area 3 focuseson the need for professionaldevelopment to assist teachers andschool districts. Key Area 4considers the assessment ofEnvironmental Literacy, and KeyArea 5 addresses implementation and funding. Finally, Key Area 6 stipulates that

    environmental education opportunities be provided in schools and communities. TheEnvironmental Literacy Plan serves as a component creating a pathway for achievingstatewide environmental literacy and is a required element for federal funding based onthe pending No Child Left Inside legislation.

    In todays world, the need for innovative thinkers and problem solvers is great. Initiativessuch as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) encourage students to getinvolved in these subject areas to ready themselves for the next generation of the workforce. Environmental literacy is an intricate part of preparing New Hampshires nextgenerations and is recognized as an important aspect of a well-rounded education for asustainable future.

    The future of New Hampshiresprecious natural resources lies in anenvironmentally literate citizenry thatis able to make informed decisions.While much is being done to educateour students, there are manychallenges ahead. Ensuringenvironmental literacy is incrediblyimportant to the sustainability of allof New Hampshires systems.

    On behalf of current and futurecitizens of our state, thank you foryour consideration of this importantdocument.

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    New Hampshire Environmental Literacy PlanCollaborators

    New Hampshire Environmental Educators

    The mission of NHEE is to advocate for high quality environmental education in New Hampshire and toprovide environmental educators with a forum for networking and professional development.

    Founded in 1979, New HampshireEnvironmental Educators is the stateprofessional organization for peopleworking and/or interested in environmentaleducation. NHEE is dedicated topromoting, supporting and improvingenvironmental education in New

    Hampshire and providing professionalsupport to its members. NHEE is a non-profit organization whose members includeenvironmental and conservation educators, classroom teachers, students,administrators and others.2

    New Hampshire Children In Nature Coalition

    The mission of the New Hampshire Children in Nature Coalition is to foster experiences in nature thatimprove physical and emotional health and well-being, increase understanding of and care for the naturalworld, and promote stronger connections to community and landscape; and providing a forum forcontinued collaboration by Coalition participants and others.

    1

    Since 2007, the New Hampshire Children in Nature Coalitionhas been working actively to connect families to the outdoors.The Coalitions individual members as well as twenty-twoworking partners including nature centers, healthorganizations and state agencies, are dedicated toencouraging families to spend time outside to increasephysical and mental health.

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    Introduction

    What is Environmental Literacy?

    Environmental literacy1 requires having anunderstanding of the natural world and the capacityto interpret environmental systems.Environmentally literate students are aware of theinterconnectedness of the global, social, cultural,economic, political and environmental structures.They are actively developing an attitude of respectand stewardship toward the natural world, andgaining the skills necessary to make informeddecisions about the environment. With this

    knowledge and understanding, environmentally literate citizens have the ability to takeappropriate actions regarding the environment based on scientific, economic, aesthetic

    and ethical considerations3.

    Environmental literacy demands understandings, skills, attitudes and habits of mind that empowerindividuals to relate to their environment in a positive fashion and to take day to day and long-term actionsto maintain or restore sustainable relations with other people and the environment.

    -Chuck Roth,pioneer in the field of Environmental Education and NHresident

    How is Environmental Literacy attained?

    Environmental literacy is primarily gained through theprocess of environmental education*. Environmentaleducation is an interdisciplinary inquiry-based approach toeducation that integrates hands-on, project-basedclassroom and community experiences with outdoor,place-based*, in-the-field learning experiences in order toachieve an understanding of the environment as a whole.The environment, along with environmental conditions andissues, can be used as a context through which instructionin reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies,and the arts are made relevant. The environment can

    also be used as context for lessons in group dynamics,problem solving, real world, and community issues. Thiskind of integration creates relevance and context thatprevents the confusion students often experience whenlearning and teaching is approached out of context. It also enhances connectionsbetween people, the land, and their communities. Environmental education teacheschildren and adults how to learn about and investigate the world in which they live andinteract, both with each other and with their environment, to attain environmentalliteracy.

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    It is critical that every American understands how our community, economy, and the environment areconnected and mutually dependent. Environmental education prepares all citizens with the 21

    stCentury

    essential skills that contribute to healthier, more environmentally sustainable and economicallyprosperous communities... Environmental education fosters learning that can transform how we think,make decisions, and lead our lives. The future depends on our collective ability to apply an integrated

    approach to teaching and helping students understand the interrelated elements of sustainableenvironmental systems--from ecological, economical and community perspectives.

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    What is the Importance of Environmental Education in Today'sWorld?

    Research indicates that environmental education notonly builds environmental literacy but also increasesoverall student engagement and motivation5.Heightened engagement then leads to improved

    academic achievement and performance onassessments in all subject areas. Using aninterdisciplinary approach, environmental educationuses real-world experiences, which highlight theinterconnectedness of knowledge, encouragingsystems thinking. This also gives students a chanceto explore the matters at hand to gain experienceinvestigating, defining and creating solutions toissues, thus improving critical thinking and problemsolving skills. Working on real-world examples oftenbenefits communities and increases collaboration

    and communication skills. In addition, learning aboutand from the environment encourages outdooractivities, which improve physical and mental health6.

    In the world today, there is a great need for innovative thinkers and problem solvers.The problems that we face and will continue to face are complicated and involved.Initiatives such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)encourage students to get involved in thesesubject areas to prepare themselves for the nextgeneration of the work force. Environmentalliteracy is an intricate part of this initiative and is

    also recognized as an important aspect of a well-rounded education to ensure preparedness for asustainable future. Whether becoming a scientist,

    joining the green jobs economy, running for electedoffice, teaching or simply being able to makeinformed decisions, environmental literacy is animportant characteristic of New Hampshirecitizens.

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    Why is Environmental Literacy Important to New Hampshire?

    New Hampshire has over a century-long legacy of tackling environmental issues,beginning with the establishment of the Society for the Protection of New HampshireForests and the passage of the Weeks Act. Today there are many organizations and

    conservation groups across the Granite State. They are responsible for many initiativesthat speak to the desire to have local and sustainable business as well asenvironmental resource security. From the numerous community-supported agriculture(CSA) systems to green buildings to land conservation, to sustainable timbermanagement to healthy water and wildlife populations, people of New Hampshire areclearly concerned with the future of our state.

    New Hampshire has come a longway to re-growing the native forestcover since the 1800s, when mostof the state had been cleared for

    timber and to create grazingpastures. Populations of manyanimal species that were nearlyextinct due to changes in habitatand unregulated harvest havebeen managed back tosustainable populations.Conservation efforts over theyears consistently attempt toprotect and conserve the abundantforests and open space within

    New Hampshires borders. Thesearch for balance between conservation and use in order to develop sustainableresource management continues. Efforts are underway to secure and protect watersources across the state, and new programs are focusing on water quality. The recentrevision of Good Forestry in the Granite Stateadds to efforts in sustainable forestmanagement on public and private lands. Individual towns are designating greenspaces for wildlife, recreation, economics, education, agriculture and enjoyment ofresidents. Governor John Lynch has set an energy goal for 25% of our states energy tocome from renewable resources by the year 2025. In addition, his Green Jobs Initiativesets aside funding for training in the green job industry to prepare citizens for asustainable future.

    Though many initiatives are underway, with ever-increasing population pressure,Granite Staters are continuously faced with the challenge of responsible growth andland use planning, while considering the value of our forests and natural resources. Inaddition, our changing climate challenges our current infrastructure and the manner inwhich we continue to develop. Extreme weather events are becoming more prevalentthan ever before, and much planning is needed to manage storm water across thestate. Warmer summers and milder winters encourage species formerly exotic to NewEngland including disease-carrying organisms such as deer ticks. Shifts in growing

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    seasons and extremely variable precipitation rates are having an impact on localagriculture, and warmer winters could mean a decrease in snow-related tourism.

    With these many issues facing ourstate, now more than ever it is

    important for our citizens tounderstand the complexity of theeconomic, cultural, political andenvironmental systems. Thoughmuch is being done in our schoolsto encourage innovative thinking,New Hampshire needs the nextgeneration to have a solidunderstanding of science and theenvironment in order to be readyto join the growing green jobs

    industry and prepare for thechallenges ahead. Ensuring an Environmentally Literate citizenry is incredibly importantto the future of New Hampshire.

    What does New Hampshire's Environmental Literacy Plan do?

    New Hampshire's Environmental Literacy Planprovides an organized framework to expandenvironmental education for all people. It providesan opportunity to engage people in the outdoors

    and the world around them. The EnvironmentalLiteracy Plan ensures that environmentaleducation providers, state natural resourceagencies, organizations and local citizens areinvolved appropriately and effectively in schoolsand communities. The plan also ensures thatenvironmental education activities are aligned withstudent graduation requirements and addressstate education goals. It ensures that teacherprofessional development opportunities inenvironmental education are aligned with student

    achievement goals, while assuring consistencyand accuracy in environmental knowledge. Finally,the Environmental Literacy Plan serves as anecessary component of a comprehensive stateenvironmental education program7. A state Environmental Literacy Plan is also arequired element for federal funding based on the pending No Child Left Insidelegislation.

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