In 2019, local education agencies —55% of the total (when combined with a small subset of 2017 data)—responded to a Chesapeake Bay Program survey that measured the extent of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) among schools:
- Elementary School Level: 35% reported providing system-wide MWEEs to at least one grade level while 32% reported providing some MWEEs to at least one grade level.
- Middle School Level: 39% reported providing system-wide MWEEs to at least one grade level while 38% reported providing some MWEEs to at least one grade level.
- High School Level: 35% reported providing system-wide MWEEs in at least one required course while 43% reported providing some MWEEs in at least one required course.
The Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT) (which also measures the degree of environmental literacy preparedness among school districts across the watershed) was distributed in 2015, 2017 and again in 2019. Data collected through the ELIT in 2019 for elementary grades show the proportion of districts with system-wide MWEEs have reverted to levels on par with 2015, after a slight increase in 2017. Middle school grades show a slight decrease in the proportion of districts with system-wide MWEEs from 2017 and 2015. However, there has been a slight increase in system-wide MWEEs at the high school grades, which had been fairly stable from 2015 to 2017.
While about 45% of the total local education agencies in the Chesapeake Bay watershed did not respond to the ELIT, those districts that did respond represent 63% of the watershed’s public elementary, middle and high school students that reside inside the watershed. Maryland (home to 24 school districts serving 898,000 students in the watershed) and the District of Columbia (home to one school district serving 66,000 students in the watershed) saw 100% response rates. Delaware (home to eight school districts serving 43,500 students in the watershed) saw an 88% response rate. Virginia (home to 94 school districts serving 1.1 million students in the watershed) saw an 84% response rate. Pennsylvania (home to 193 school districts serving 555,000 students in the watershed) saw a 34% response rate. West Virginia (home to eight school districts serving 41,000 students in the watershed) saw a 50% response rate.
The 2019 reported data for Pennsylvania and Virginia include a small subset of data that was gathered in the 2017 survey period. The exact same survey tool was used in 2019 and data from 2017 was only carried forward if a district did not respond to the 2019 survey. Delaware did not participate in the 2019 survey and the data reflects their 2017 responses. New York does not currently collect ELIT data. The full 2019 ELIT survey results are available for download.
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.
Local education agencies and state departments of education play critical roles in supporting, developing and implementing in-school environmental literacy programs. The Chesapeake Bay Program's Education Workgroup connects natural resource agencies, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, colleges, and scientific and professional experts to help education agencies develop and deliver programs that impact environmental instruction in the classroom and the field. A concerted effort toward environmental literacy and education will form the foundation of an informed and active citizenry that can understand and respond to complex environmental problems.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Increasing professional development opportunities for pre-service teachers, teachers and non-formal educators to support the development and implementation of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs); and
- Increasing the visibility and adoption of MWEEs as a best practice in education.
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 was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in May of 2020.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:
- In 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program's Education Workgroup published An Educator's Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE). This easy-to-use manual helps teachers and non-formal educators strengthen outdoor learning and construct high-quality educational experiences for their students. The guide describes the essential elements and supporting practices of a MWEE, offers tips for designing, implementing and gaining funding and support for a MWEE, and features a comprehensive MWEE planning toolbox. The guide brings consistency and quality to the work done under the Environmental Literacy Planning, Student and Sustainable Schools outcomes.
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
- Cacapon Institute
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Experience Learning
- Stroud Water Research Center