Governor O'Malley Celebrates Earth Day with Students from Across Maryland; Testifies in Support of Federal No Child Left Inside Act; Signs Executive Order Establishing Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature
LAUREL, MD (April 22, 2008) – Governor Martin O’Malley today joined Congressman John Sarbanes to celebrate Earth Day by highlighting the need to expand environmental education to help children lead healthier lives and become good environmental stewards. The Governor testified at the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education’s field hearing held today at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge on the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 (H.R. 3036), federal legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Sarbanes.
“Environmental education is an essential component of ensuring that our children have a sense of connection to the natural environment, possess problem-solving skills and become responsible and engaged individuals, professionals, and parents,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Maryland is committed to ensuring that every school-aged child has the opportunity to learn about, learn from and connect with the natural environment through first hand experiences outdoors.”
The No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 introduced by Congressman Sarbanes makes environmental education grants available for student activities and teacher trainings to states that develop state-wide environmental literacy plans.
“Adoption of the federal No Child Left Inside Act will help students in every state, regardless of socio-economic status, have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors. It will also provide much needed federal funding to help our teachers be prepared provide these experiences for our children,” said O’Malley.
Governor O’Malley today also announced his signing of an Executive Order establishing the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, a coalition of state, local, private and non-profit partners charged with promoting the well-being of youth by accelerating environmental learning and expanding opportunities for outdoor experiences.
“Maryland’s natural environment is a wonderful resource for childhood learning,” said Governor O’Malley. “This Executive Order outlines our plan –- and underscores our commitment -- to ensure Maryland children make a strong connection with our natural world and learn about environmental issues so they can grow to become healthy adults and informed and responsible stewards. Maryland intends to be a national leader in giving every school-aged child an opportunity to learn about our environment and to learn from nature.”
The Partnership will be co-chaired by Maryland Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin and Maryland Education Secretary Nancy S. Grasmick. Other members will include representatives from the environmental and education communities as well as local government, businesses, youth-based organizations and the pediatric medical field.
The Executive Order tasks the Partnership with creating an environmental literacy plan for Maryland students, increasing opportunities for structured outdoor learning through programming on state parks and other conservation lands, and enhancing school and community natural areas to provide for structured and unstructured play. The partnership is also tasked with devising a method to track increased time spent in nature by children and identifying opportunities and barriers to implement programs.
Another goal of the Partnership will be to increase opportunities for outdoor learning by connecting existing natural resources camps and other outdoor programs to state learning standards, and by increasing minority visitation to public conservation lands.
In addition, the Partnership is tasked with finding ways to provide increased opportunities structured and unstructured time in natural settings for both play and learning -- connecting communities with parks via walk-able trails, improving natural play zones in undeveloped pockets of urban and suburban neighborhoods, and expanding schoolyard habitat programs.
“While Maryland is fortunate to have environmental issues already integrated into our learning standards, we can and must go farther,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin. “This plan will examine model outdoor programs, model curriculum and professional development opportunities for teachers, and will also look at standards to make sure we are producing environmentally literate graduates.”