Governor O'Malley Kicks Off Maryland's Partnership for Children in Nature
Twenty-one Member Panel Appointed to Promote Outdoor Experiences, Environmental Literacy for Maryland's Children
Joined by Congressman John Sarbanes, Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources John Griffin, State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, and members of the No Child Left Inside Coalition, Governor Martin O'Malley kicked off Maryland's Partnership for Children in Nature today at a rally with more than 150 students, educators and business leaders. The Governor also announced the membership of the 21-member panel appointed to increase outdoor experiences and environmental literacy for Maryland's children.
"Our mission is to ensure that every child in every community experiences nature directly and develops a personal connection with our environment," said Governor O'Malley. "These outdoor experiences build a sense of stewardship so that our children learn the principles associated with being responsible guardians of Maryland's natural resources."
The Governor established the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature earlier this year. On Earth Day last April, Governor O'Malley testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education in support of the federal No Child Left Inside Act, which promotes environmental education through grants and teacher training projects. Congressman John Sarbanes, the legislation's lead sponsor, also spoke at today's rally.
"The Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature is an excellent complement to the No Child Left Inside federal initiative," said Congressman Sarbanes. "I would like to applaud Governor O'Malley for this initiative to support environmental education in Maryland's schools and am confident that other states will follow his lead."
The kick-off event came just two weeks after the Governor participated in the graduation ceremony of the Maryland Civic Justice Corps, a summer job and environmental education program for Maryland youth, which includes the completion of numerous restoration and improvement projects throughout Maryland State Parks. In addition to youth employment efforts, Maryland in-state college tuition has remained frozen for three consecutive years, aid to community colleges has increased by nine percent compared to four years ago, and a record $5.3 billion has been invested in K-12 education, demonstrating that the future of Maryland's youth remains a top priority in the O'Malley-Brown administration.
The Partnership for Children in Nature will be co-chaired by State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin.
"Maryland stretches from the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay in the east, to the mountains in the west, serving as a natural classroom for our 850,000 students. Indeed, our schools already follow a curriculum requiring outdoor experiences at each grade level," said Grasmick. "Rep. Sarbanes and Gov. O'Malley are to be commended for this effort, which has as its goal greater opportunities for outdoor education in Maryland and the rest of the nation. It is exciting to encourage our children to learn more about the environment and all it has to offer, which will enhance the rest of their lives."
Governor O'Malley tasked the partnership with creating an environmental literacy plan for Maryland students, increasing opportunities for structured outdoor learning on state parks and conservation lands, and enhancing school and community natural areas to enable more play and learning outdoors. The partnership will also work on improving environmental education by connecting existing natural resources camps and other outdoor programs to state learning standards, and increasing minority visitation to public lands.
"Kids need more time playing and learning outdoors in order to develop their own personal connection with nature," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin. "We hope to leverage the ideas and resources of this new partnership to better connect communities with parks via walk-able trails, improve natural outdoor play areas in undeveloped pockets of urban and suburban neighborhoods, and expand schoolyard habitat programs."
Governor O'Malley commemorated the partnership's kick-off by planting a tree with students learning about the Severn River ecosystem at Anne Arundel County's premier environmental education center. This is an activity the Governor includes in each monthly "Capital for a Day" event throughout the State.
"It is critical that our citizens, especially the younger ones, are aware of the environmental issues facing our state and are equipped with the knowledge and skills to help alleviate those issues. The partnership is a positive step in that direction." said Dr. Sarah Haines, Director of Towson University's Center for Sciences and Mathematics Education.
Partnership for Children in Nature Appointees
* Co-Chair John R. Griffin, Secretary, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
* Co-Chair Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools
* Gabriel Albornoz, Director, Montgomery County Department of Recreation
* Margo Bailey, Mayor, Chestertown
* Will Baker, President, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
* Steve Barry, Arlington Echo Environmental Education Center, Anne Arundel County Public School System
* Becky Beecroft, Teacher, Fairview Outdoor School, Washington County
* James Bond, Executive Director, Living Classrooms
* Tracy Bowen, Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation
* Jackie Carrera, Executive Director, Parks and People Foundation
* Sydney Cousin, Superintendent, Howard County Public School System
* Patrick Delaney, Retired Principal, Route 40 School, Allegany County
* Bob Dulli, National Geographic Society
* Lynne Goldman, Johns Hopkins University
* Allen Hance, Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Trust
* Bob Hoyt, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
* Dr. Sarah Haines, Director of Center for Sciences and Mathematics Education, Towson University
* Carnelious Jones, Chair, Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, Inc.
* William McDonald, Discovery Communications
* Esther Parker, Former President, Maryland Parent Teacher Organization
* Heather White, Director of Education Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation
For more information about Maryland's Partnership for Children in Nature and interactive children's activities visit http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/education/children_nature/.