Governor McAuliffe signs environmental literacy executive order

earth-newGovernor McAuliffe today signed an executive order establishing the Virginia Environmental Literacy Challenge.

The voluntary challenge will provide a pathway for classroom teachers and school division administrators to engage students in outdoor experiences and school sustainability projects that improve their understanding of the environment.

“Environmental literacy is a key component of my administration’s conservation efforts,” Governor McAuliffe said.  “We need to make sure that our students are graduating with the skills and knowledge they need to protect Virginia’s natural resources. Learning about our environment is a great way for children to understand important scientific concepts that will prepare them for the new Virginia economy.”

“The natural environment is perfect for bringing together scientific concepts in a way that you can’t with a textbook,” Secretary of Education Anne Holton said. “Our school divisions are using innovative programs like this one to provide a top-notch scientific education to our students, and we couldn’t be more proud of what they have accomplished.”

“Environmental literacy is an important part of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement signed last year by Governor McAuliffe,” Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward said. “But we believe that learning about the environment is important statewide, not just in the Bay’s watershed. A systemic approach to environmental literacy will ensure that future generations are prepared to protect and conserve our natural resources.”

The voluntary challenge recognizes and highlights the efforts of classroom teachers and school divisions that go above and beyond in the teaching of environmental literacy. It has two components: the Conservation Classroom Challenge and the Environmental Literacy Challenge for Systemic Sustainability.

Education and natural resources agencies will provide classroom teachers with a series of voluntary lessons, ranging from building habitats for native Virginia toads to implementing class-wide recycling programs.

At the systemic level, the challenge gives school divisions a road map to develop a division-wide environmental literacy plan, train teachers and administrators on best practices for using the environment as a classroom, and provide students with meaningful outdoor experiences.

Josh Bearman, a science teacher at Lucille Brown Middle School, was awarded the first completed Conservation Classroom Challenge by Governor McAuliffe for taking his students on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’sBaywatcher to explore the James River. Governor McAuliffe joined Bearman and his students on the education vessel Wednesday to celebrate Earth Day.

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