Public Comment on the NH plan

For the past two years, the NH Environmental Literacy Working Group has been working on developing New Hampshire’s Environmental Literacy Plan.  The Working Group  consists of members from NH Environmental Educators, NH Children in Nature Coalition, organizations and individuals. The Environmental Literacy Plan serves as a component that creates a pathway for achieving statewide environmental literacy and is a required element for federal funding based on the pending No Child Left Inside Legislation.  The group conducted surveys, forums and focus groups to gather input from a wide variety of people around the state.  It is now time for public review of the document.

The NH ELP Working Group is seeking comments on the proposed plan.
The New Hampshire’s Environmental Literacy Plan presented here is an organized framework  ensuring environmental literacy for all people outlined by the six Key Areas of the plan. Key Areas 1 and 2 ensure that environmental literacy activities address state education goals and are aligned with student graduation requirements. Key Area 3 focuses on the need for professional development to assist teachers and school districts. Key Area 4 considers the assessment of Environmental Literacy, and Key Area 5 addresses implementation and funding. Finally, Key Area 6 stipulates that environmental education opportunities be provided in schools and communities.

The Committee would welcome your comments on the following:

1.  For each of the six key areas, consider these questions when developing your comment:

  • Are the short, medium and long term outcomes achievable?
  • Are there additional approaches or strategies that should be used?
  • Are there additional partners that should be identified?

2.  Also, please make a general comment about your thoughts on the overall viability of the plan.

We will welcome and consider comments that will improve the plan through September 1, 2011.

Please leave your comments below.

16 Responses to Public Comment on the NH plan

  1. TM in Nashua says:

    1. What is the cost of this “project.” from a dollars perspective for the following:
    “NHEE will work with DOE, other state agencies and NGOs to identify strategies to increase the number of environmental literacy opportunities for communities”
    This will require more personal at the NHEE, DOE and other “state agencies.”

    2. “DOE will encourage schools meeting science and social studies frameworks as current standards to contain objectives tied to environmental literacy”
    This will also require more personal to monitor these objectives.

    3. How many more teachers will be needed to support the following:
    “increase in the number of districts that include an elective class on environmental science/literacy”

    4. What are going to be the costs for:
    “Organize a committee to develop and maintain an online database”
    “Develop an online database with state EE resources and programs”
    Maintaining database programs and resources is not free.

    5. How many personal will be needed to support the following:
    “All districts have a working relationship with an EL-Professional Development provider”

    6. What is the cost associated with the following:
    “Change requirements for teacher certification”

    7. What is the cost for the following:
    “Schools adjust curriculum requirements to include EE”

    8. What are the costs for the following:
    “Work with DOE initiatives that support EL such as STEM”

    9. What is the cost for the following including trainers and teachers time and resources:
    “Provide field-based EL training for teachers”

    10. What is the cost for the training and verifications for the following:
    “All teachers have participated in field-based EL training”

    11. Where are these funding sources going to come from and how much will they be:
    “Funding sources will be located to assist schools in creating field experiences and environmentally focused field trips.”

    And the list goes on. By my rough assessment, the financial costs to our state are into the millions per year.

  2. stanfreeda says:

    To address TM’s comments. If you read the plan carefully, you will see that there really aren’t any costs at all. All of these things are already done by schools and districts. Standards for teaching and learning, district courses of study, state initiatives, teacher credentialing, teacher professional development etc, are already in existence and undergo updating on a regular basis. Programs that offer professional development base those offerings on teacher needs and schools and districts update their curriculum based on state standards. The literacy plan simply asks that environmental literacy be integrated into already existing systems over the period of the plan. Also, like most plans in our state, this plan will not mandated by law. Districts will maintain local control, as they always have, and they can decide whether or not adding environmental literacy to their curriculum is of value to their students. What the plan does however, is ask schools, districts, and communities to consider environmental literacy standards when updating and initiating curriculum and other plans, so that the appreciation and education about the environment that our children desperately need can happen with as little impact as possible. This plan was designed to be cost free, but provides the impetus for local decisions to be made than include increasing the environmental literacy of our citizens. This is of utmost importance in a rural state that treasurers its environment, upon which much of our tourism draw is based. That’s what I get out of reading this plan. I am not sure where the idea that implementing this plan would cost “millions of dollars” to the state. But it clear to me, when I read the plan, that every effort is made to incorporate environmental literacy at no cost to our citizens. And that every effort will be made by the organizations supporting the plan to locate additional funding sources to enhance the no cost efforts being made throughout the state whenever possible.

  3. Amy says:

    To add to Stan’s information regarding TM’s comments…it is also worthwhile mentioning that the Environmental Literacy Plans are required for funding via the proposed federal No Child Left Inside Act. The bi-partisan No Child Left Inside Act was introduced July 14, 2011 into the 112th Congress by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD). They were joined by many of their Congressional colleagues, including Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), whose leadership provides a critical bipartisan boost. To receive federal funding through this legislation a state must posess a DOE approved ELP. Nearly all 50 states are working on ELP’s and some such as Maine are completed. Being prepared with a plan for environmental literacy ensures NH’s ability to compete for these funds in the future…with no plan, NH is not eligible for funding. So if the concern is about costs, it is irresponsible not to have a plan that is required for possible federal funding. An ELP for NH is a huge step forward towards the goal of ensuring environmental education is part of every child’s education! Reports indicate Americans are spending 25% less time outdoors compared to what they did in the late 1980’s…ELP’s and the initiatives they contain are a critical step in reversing this trend!

  4. Elle says:

    “Environmental Literacy Plans are required for funding via the proposed federal No Child Left Inside Act. Reports indicate Americans are spending 25% less time outdoors compared to what they did in the late 1980′s…ELP’s and the initiatives they contain are a critical step in reversing this trend!”

    So now we need Federal funding (taxpayer money) to get kids to play outdoors?
    Vote NO! No more fluff in curriculum requirements, graduation requirements, teacher education requirements, and certification requirements. Forget “environmental literacy” and focus on literacy.

    Spend more time teaching real science, not this pseudo-science propaganda: “Our changing climate challenges our current infrastructure and the manner in which we continue to develop.”

    I taught science for almost 20 years in NH. I will do whatever I can to oppose ELPs and NCLI.

  5. heidi says:

    Overall I am pleased with the plan. Most of the goals outlined are specific and reachable. In fact, I think that NH could go much further in some of the Key Areas. For example: one field experience per year per student could be a short/medium term goal for most schools. For many schools in NH, a natural area exists in the schoolyard or only a short walk away. In these cases, a teacher could begin to utilize these areas during their class periods right away. Some schools in NH already include field experiences through partnerships and trips with environmental education organizations. In other schools where these options do not currently exist, the field experience would have to remain a longer-term goal.

    Another goal I feel could be implemented more quickly is the partnership between schools and nonformal environmental education organizations. In many schools, these partnerships already exist. To initiate a new relationship, schools can invite one of the many nonformal EE organizations in NH to their classrooms, this year, for just one day or one class period at low or no cost to the school. EE organizations will often have the funding and infrastructure in place for outreach programming in their own communities.

    Lastly, many high schools already include some type of senior project in their curriculum. With some minor changes (existing along a spectrum depending on the school) these projects could become place-based, interdisciplinary, possibly service-based experiences for students that would require field-work in their home communities. A project of this nature encompasses many of the Key Areas: fulfilling state standards as they exist now, fulfilling graduation requirements if the project was required for graduation, inclusion of an educationally meaningful field experience, providing a product for assessment, and possibly opening up avenues for funding if the project involved partnerships in the community. Furthermore, place-based education helps to create stronger communities and encourages students to return to their home communities after college. This is a major challenge in NH, especially in the North Country, that could be overcome with increased environmental literacy and community connection. I strongly favor a project based approach to environmental literacy assessment in place of another test or anything resembling another test (“Individual districts create an environmental literacy assessment”) that would put more undue “test stress” on students and teachers alike.

  6. heidi says:

    Good environmental education is “real science.” Good environmental education teaches traditional science subjects such as biology, chemistry, and earth science through hands-on, place-based activities and lessons. Studies in cognitive science show that an interdisciplinary and hands-on approach to learning allows literacy, environmental literacy, history, the arts, math… to be taught together in a way that increases relevance and increases retention in all subjects. Good environmental education has no political goals and includes no propaganda. It serves only to help students further understand the facts about the natural systems around them so they can make more informed decisions in the future. An environmentally literate student has the information and freedom to draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions about controversial issues.

  7. additional approaches:feature the health benefits derived from an outdoor lifestyle both mental and physical. additional partners: one area that may prove interesting to students are all the large trees in our n.h. forests including I.D.,life cycles,diseases’ and how the male and female parts combine to reproduce . New partners could include any one involved i n arborculture,T.U.,Sierra club,etc.

  8. Amy says:

    Thank you for your comments on the NH ELP. It is not as simple as “So now we need Federal funding (taxpayer money) to get kids to play outdoors?” While although children today are in desperate need of more time to play outdoors and parents must be educated about the importance of time in nature, Environmental Education and ELP’s run much deeper. Environmental Education has been defined since the 1970’s –in 1977 there was an Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education for 12 days with representation from more than 65 nations. The agreed upon goals for EE are:
    to foster clear awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas
    to provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment and skills needed to protect and improve the environment.
    to create new patterns of behavior exhibited by individuals, groups, and society as whole toward the environment.
    This is not “fluff” but rather core and essential needs for responsible citizens. EE is not based on “psuedo-science” but is grounded in sound, peer reviewed science (and other subject areas).
    Furthermore, in just one example there was a study of 60 low performing schools from throughout 12 states where an environment-centered curriculum was adopted and academic achievement increased significantly–test scores increased in reading, math, social studies, science and writing; classroom management problems decreased and students expressed greater interest in learning (A Field Guide to Environmental Literacy–James Elder, 2003).

    • TM in Nashua says:

      So I take it then this is not about teaching science given the following in your comments:
      “to foster clear awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, ”
      “to provide every person with opportunities to acquire … values, attitudes, ”
      “to create new patterns of behavior ”

      As a former instructor, I am sorry, but this does not sound like teaching of science.
      Nor has anyone truly addressed the cost issues I outlined above which will clearly require addition resources.

  9. Stan Freeda says:

    TM, That’s partially correct. This plan is not a plan to teach science. It is a plan to teach Environmental Literacy to NH Students. The goals you quote were developed by Environmental Educators, who seek to foster environmental literacy through all content areas. As in the comments above, this is broader that just environmental science. Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, English Language Arts, and the Arts all have standards which could support teaching environmental literacy. Because of that, the plan was designed so that schools can implement it through already existing programs and content frameworks. So, once again, there are no costs, unless a school or district choose to spend money on new programs. The science frameworks actually cover the vast majority of what students should know to be environmentally literate, so in some respects, you might consider it as “teaching science”, but the plan itself is not a replacement for the NH Frameworks for Science Literacy. You can think of the plan as specific parts of the science frameworks, packaged to highlight Environmental Literacy. Studies continually support the need for children to connect with their environment more and that building those connections support academic achievement in all areas. The plan asks teachers to organize their teaching differently, and emphasize the standards dealing with the environment whenever possible. It does not ask them to do anything more.
    Hope that helps.

  10. TM in Nashua says:

    Hello Stan,
    Then may I ask why is “environmental literacy” more important then physics literacy or computational sciences literacy? Why should not the schools implement these far more important subjects through existing programs and content frameworks? Why should teachers organize their teaching for “environmental literacy” as apposed to physics, computational sciences, math, biology, or any other science? What is the justification for the focus of “environmental literacy” over other “literacy” capabilities?

    Also, as to no cost, I frankly disagree. From the report, I outlined 11 individual points which will require more man power or other resources to be made available. See point four as an example, “Develop an online database with state EE resources and programs” Developing and maintaining a database is not free. These eleven points will not be free.

  11. Stan Freeda says:

    TM, the issue isn’t that one content is more important than another, the issue is that students need a variety of experiences in order to have a well rounded education. Recent research shows that children, and adults I would venture to guess, don’t spend enough quality time outside in their environment. This nature deficit often results in depression, obesity, and attention span issues in our young people, among other things. So, in many respects, environmental literacy is important to the health and well being of children, and accommodating these basic needs could lead to more academic successes in the core subject areas of physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth space science. Asking that teachers incorporate environmental literacy into their lessons in core areas removes the need to establish another core domain.

    As to the cost issue, the development of a database could be as simple as opening a blog such as this one, and asking that teachers add resources they find useful to it. Collaboration and communication among educators that work together to build such a resource costs no money, but a commitment from participating teachers to share resources, something teachers love to do, is necessary. Many of the informal education agencies already have such resources available for teachers, and it takes little effort and no money to aggregate resources for and with our NH teachers. As to the other 10 points, each of these can be done in a variety of ways, some that cost money, some that do not. Individual choice is key to a successful program. If you choose to only see solutions that cost money, then you limit yourself from the larger scope of possibilities that are available for innovative thinkers. The bottom line is that it this is important for the children of New Hampshire. It will help connect them to their surroundings, their communities, and their civic responsibilities. As educators, We owe them our commitment and industry, so that they can better be prepared to learn, live, and work in our changing environment.

  12. Jen says:

    As an educator in this state I am excited about this plan. There are many teachers who are already successfully doing the items outlined in this plan. Many other teachers would use their local environment if support and training were in place. This is why the resources piece of this plan is key. Knowing what resources are out there and how they are connected to the already existing standards will help many classroom educators incorporate the local environment into their curriculum. The other piece of this plan that is exciting is the collaboration between professionals and education. When students are involved with local professionals they become aware of possible career fields as well as job opportunities. Overall, the environment is an amazing resource present in all of our communities that aid our students in making real connections to the material they are learning. These connections and experiences increase problem solving and critical thinking skills as well as self esteem in our youth. All of which are important when the focus is on educating the whole child.

  13. Henry Burke says:

    In regards to Key Area 1 I do not believe that the Long Term Outcome: “Every school has an outdoor teaching space with easy access” is achievable. Some schools located within urban areas don’t/won’t have the real estate for this. I would hope that environmental education field trips would be a priority at these urban schools.
    In regards to Key Area 4 I think the Short Term Outcome: “Measure environmental literacy based on current NECAP Science assessment” is achievable, recognizing the limitations of standardized testing. I think it would assess EL as adequately as other sciences are assessed.
    In regards to Key Area 5 I think the Short Term Outcome: Funding sources will be located to assist schools in creating field experiences and environmentally focused field trips is achievable but I believe “specific funding for field trip transportation” ie. bussing, or various other means of transportation should be highlighted,(or to help schools purchase eco-vans, for small group field trips.!)
    I really like the community concept of Key Area 6 and I think the Long Term Outcome: “The community benefits from strong environmental connections between businesses, schools and government.” is achievable, and a great one to include. Quite ecologically-minded!

  14. Alicia says:

    One of the key components of this plan is the idea of partnerships between schools, districts, nonformal environmental education organizations, professional development providers, community groups and others. Strong partnerships will help ensure that this plan is implemented throughout New Hampshire.
    I am a professional development provider and am particularly interested in Key Area 3. I would hope that the section on in-service professional development would include school administrative support to seek out environmental education PD opportunities. It is written as “educators seek out …” which may intend to include administrators. I believe administrators should support environmental education professional development in their schools by actively seeking out opportunities, while also encouraging their teachers to seek out PD on their own.
    When it comes down to it, Key Area 6 is really what this plan is all about: creating a citizenry that is environmentally literate and actively participates in the decision-making about their local (and global) issues. Perhaps this should be listed first to stress its importance.

  15. Audrey says:

    In reviewing the ELP, there are two things that are emphasized in the plan which I think are critical to ensure its success. First, that environment and environmental education is integrated across the curriculum and viewed as a vehicle for meeting state standards in all subjects rather than an additional requirement placed on teachers and students. Second, that partnerships among teachers, students, environmental education providers, and community are key to implementing the short and long-term goals of the plan and should be emphasized and prioritized accordingly.

    The ELP task force referenced in the plan will be responsible for facilitating the majority of the work outlined here and so will need support and resources to keep this task force functioning for the duration of the plan (10-15 years). The working group that created the ELP was supported by all the organizations that contributed staff time (along with some volunteer time on the part of the working group members I’m sure!). Will there be an MOU in place with these agencies and organizations to ensure the long-term viability of this group or is there some other plan in place to make this happen? It seems key to making sure the plan doesn’t just sit on a shelf.

    New Hampshire Environmental Educators is committed to the implementation of the ELP and has already begun researching options for the online database of EE providers in NH.

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