“Environmental literacy” is a phrase that is picking up steam in Colorado and around the country.
In Colorado, legislation was passed into law in 2010 that required the Colorado Department of Education to adopt a statewide plan for environmental education. In 2011, the Colorado Department of Education, along with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, developed an Environmental Literacy Plan, or the Colorado Environmental Education Plan, after holding many strategic planning sessions around the state. Durango Nature Studies created an advisory council here in Durango to provide input into the plan.
In December 2012, the Colorado State Board of Environmental Education formally adopted this plan, which outlines strategies for building a feasible, cost-effective and sustainable infrastructure to support the education of an environmentally literate citizenry through the partnerships built between schools and environmental education providers, such as Durango Nature Studies.
The Southwest Science Collaboration, funded by BP, allows Durango, Ignacio and Bayfield to be ahead of the curve in creating this kind of partnership. Currently, every kindergarten to fifth-grade class in these districts incorporates classroom visits and trips to the Nature Center to meet their science standards. We are working on providing similar opportunities to middle and high school students. Durango Nature Studies adheres to “Best Practices for Environmental Education” required in the plan, which include:
Restoring and increasing field experiences as part of the school curriculum.
Improving access to existing environmental education programs and materials.
Making connections with Colorado Academic Standards to support classroom instruction.
Creating opportunities for enhanced and ongoing professional development of educators.
So, our communities are actually a model for what the state is trying to achieve, and our district and teachers are better positioned to meet the requirements laid out in the plan. The next step in implementing the plan is the creation of a statewide advisory committee and regional advisory committees, of which Durango Nature Studies plans to be a representative.
At a national level, in July, the No Child Left Inside legislation was reintroduced with bipartisan support. If passed, this will funnel much-needed money to states that have an Environmental Education Plan to help implement their programs.
In the meantime, we are lucky in our part of the state to have businesses and school districts that recognize the importance of environmental education for the future of our children.
To read the Colorado Environmental Education Plan, visit durangonaturestudies.org/resources.htm.