Superintendents' Environmental Education Collaborative
Prince Georges County Public Schools
For Prince Georges County Public Schools, developing and implementing a systemic framework for environmental literacy requires two elements for success—leadership and partners.
As for leadership, former CEO of PGCPS Dr. Kevin Maxwell, has provided it in spades as a champion for environmental literacy and founder of the Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative. In Maryland, Dr. Maxwell’s support was pivotal in the state board of education’s adoption of an environmental literacy graduation requirement. And once it was passed, Dr. Maxwell lead the charge in his own district to ensure schools in the district were prepared to support students in achieving this goal. As a first step, PGCPS staff created a comprehensive framework for meeting the environmental literacy requirement at each grade level. The framework establishes clear programmatic objectives for achieving ambitious goals--
- Outdoor learning opportunities for every student, every year
- Authentic, inquiry-based learning for all students
- Related teacher professional development for all teachers
- Every school achieves Maryland Green School status
- Curricular alignment of state environmental literacy standards with the new framework
Meeting the objectives within the framework requires strong partnerships. To foster deep engagement among partners, PGCPS convened an environmental literacy steering committee to provide ongoing guidance and support for fully implementing the framework. Internally, the steering committee includes the department leads for science and social studies, leadership staff from the county’s outdoor education center, and administrators from within the office of the CEO. Equally importantly, the committee also includes a number of external partners and stakeholders. County government agencies, businesses, local non-profits and educational program providers all participate in quarterly meetings that enhance the district’s efforts to reach the more than 130,000 PGCPS students with robust environmental literacy programming.
One notable success that has emerged from the collaborative work of the steering committee is an innovative partnership between the district and the Prince Georges County Department of the Environment (DOE). As DOE seeks to address stormwater runoff—a high priority issue in the state of Maryland—the county-owned property occupied by public schools is prime location for mitigation efforts. Funding to support such efforts can also be used for educational purposes, including the creation of outdoor classrooms on school grounds and training teachers in the use of these classrooms for education about stormwater runoff and other locally relevant environmental issues.