• Progress

    In 2015, more than 130 local education agencies in the watershed portions of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia responded to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool, which in part measures the availability of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) in elementary, middle and high schools. Of the 2.7 million students enrolled in the region’s public schools, about 74 percent—more than two million students—are enrolled in schools within these responding districts.

    Thirty-seven percent of responding districts reported providing system-wide MWEEs to at least one grade level in elementary school. Together, these 49 local education agencies serve about 365,000 elementary school students. Forty-five percent of responding districts reported providing some (rather than system-wide) MWEEs to at least one grade level in elementary school, bringing the total number of local education agencies offering MWEEs to at least a portion of their elementary school population to 108.

    Forty-three percent of responding districts reported providing system-wide MWEEs to at least one grade level in middle school. Together, these 58 local education agencies serve about 249,000 middle school students. Forty-five percent of responding districts reported providing some (rather than system-wide) MWEEs to at least one grade level in middle school, bringing the total number of local education agencies offering MWEEs to at least a portion of their middle school population to 119.

    Thirty-one percent of responding districts reported providing system-wide MWEEs in at least one required course in high school. Together, these 41 local education agencies serve about 140,000 high school students. Forty-eight percent of responding districts reported providing some (rather than system-wide) MWEEs to at least one required course in high school, bringing the total number of local education agencies offering MWEEs to at least a portion of their high school population to 105.

    About 67 percent of the local education agencies in the watershed portions of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia did not respond to the Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool. These non-responding school districts serve almost 710,000 students, or 26 percent of the public elementary, middle and high schoolers in the watershed. Issues surrounding data collection in Delaware—where school districts within the watershed serve about 21,500 students—led the Education Workgroup to omit this state’s data from the 2015 dataset. This dataset does not include data from New York, where school districts within the watershed serve almost 98,000 students.

    For a learning experience to qualify as a MWEE, it must meet four criteria. First, students must identify and investigate an environmental question, problem or issue. Second, students must participate in one or more outdoor field experiences that allow them to collect the data needed to answer their research questions and inform their actions. Third, students must take action to address environmental issues at the personal or societal level. And last, students must analyze, evaluate and communicate their conclusions.

    In the coming decades, the public will be called upon to understand complex environmental issues. Ensuring the public is capable of this task will require a concerted effort toward environmental education. Indeed, students exposed to environmental education score higher on environmental knowledge, sensitivity and behaviors than those who are not. These students will form the core of an informed and environmentally active citizenry.

  • Management Strategy

    To achieve the student outcome, participating partners have committed to:

    • Promoting, developing and implementing Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) with educators, school administrators, education agencies and third party providers;
    • Communicating information about educational resources and funding opportunities to support the development and implementation of rigorous, inquiry-based instruction and MWEE programs;
    • Working with state and local education and natural resource agencies to ensure rigorous science, social studies and other environment-related content is effectively represented in curriculum and learning standards frameworks, and that agency and provider educational support materials are fully aligned with the intent of the standards;
    • Supporting networks of environmental education providers;
    • Promoting sustained professional development for educators;
    • Developing and promoting opportunities for students to pursue out-of-school leadership and enrichment programs that support an in-depth understanding of environmental issues and opportunities to engage with solutions; and
    • Supporting programs and networks that provide authentic student experiences toward college and career readiness related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Next Generation Science Standards and other rigorous science, social studies, and related discipline standards.

    These partners will also collaborate with the work being done to achieve the 2017 and 2025 Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), citizen stewardship, diversity, public access, and water quality standards attainment and monitoring outcomes.

    Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through the Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT).

    As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in February of 2018.

  • Work Plan
    Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking specific actions over the course of 2016 and 2017 to achieve the high-level approaches identified in the management strategy above.

    Completed actions from the work plan include:

    • In June 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program released An Educator’s Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE): an easy-to-use manual for teachers and educators who want to strengthen outdoor learning for their students. The guide describes the essential elements and supporting practices of a MWEE and offers tips for designing, implementing, and gaining funding and support for a MWEE. It also features a comprehensive MWEE planning toolbox.
  • Participating Partners

    The Fostering Stewardship Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome.

    Participating partners include:

    • State of Delaware
    • State of Maryland
    • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
    • Commonwealth of Virginia
    • District of Columbia
    • Chesapeake Bay Commission
    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    • National Park Service
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    • U.S. Forest Service
    • U.S. Geological Survey
    • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
    • National Wildlife Federation
    • North American Association for Environmental Education