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Environmental teachers huddle up in Ocean City - February 7, 2012

This week more than 500 educators will convene in Ocean City for the largest state environmental education conference in the nation. They will be staying in local hotels, eating and drinking at local establishments, enjoying local nature, and discussing the challenges, complexities, and successes of environmental education.

"Fulfilling Environmental Education's Promise: Authentic Learning and Real World Impact," is the 27th annual conference of the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education.

It is an exciting time for environmental education. During the last session, Maryland lawmakers passed legislation citing environmental literacy as a requirement for high school graduation, the first requirement of its kind in the nation.

Now, school districts across Maryland are working to implement Environmental Literacy Plans. For instance, in Worcester County, Board of Education officials have enlisted local nonprofit organizations, museums, and parks to assist with identifying and delivering age-appropriate, curriculum-based, outdoor learning experiences for every child, every year. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is pleased to lend staff expertise to this endeavor.

The MAEOE conference will provide a variety of opportunities for both school-based, or formal educators and non-formal educators to increase knowledge, gain new skills, access newly-developed resources, and network with other education professionals.

It is important to note that effective environmental education doesn't just take place in science class. It is "transdisciplinary," which requires teams of teachers to work together to facilitate student learning in a way that addresses relevant topics throughout a variety of subject areas. That's how life is.

Once out of school, one's day is not divided up neatly into math, reading, and science. In environmental education, the environment provides meaningful context which lends itself to a more integrated approach to learning.

As an example, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, along with many partners, is beginning a new climate change issues investigation program with students this month. Students will conduct research, which will include reading primary source documents, to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of climate science. They will learn, from multiple stakeholders, about varying viewpoints regarding climate change.

All of their inquiry will require the use of reading, writing, math, and science skills.

True to their efforts to teach environmental education and model best practices, MAEOE conference attendees are carpooling, room-sharing, recycling, and reusing. A portion of each registration fee was used to purchase carbon offsets, and participants were encouraged to bring their own bags, water bottles, and coffee mugs to minimize the environmental impact of the conference.

Additionally, a book swap was organized, as well as collection stations for old eyeglasses and cellphones, which will be donated to charity organizations.

Thursday and Friday offer full-day and half-day professional development workshops facilitated by leading scientists and experts from organizations such as NOAA, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Maryland Sea Grant, National Geographic, and more.

Representatives from the Maryland Partnership for Children and Nature, the Maryland Green Schools program, Maryland Master Naturalists, and the Urban EE Collective will also be on hand, conducting concurrent sessions on Saturday, networking, and exhibiting throughout the conference. For more information about MAEOE and the annual conference, visit

The Delaware Association for Environmental Education is holding their third annual conference at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes later in February. The one-day event, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25, will feature a keynote address by local author and journalist Tom Horton. Visit for details and registration information.

Contact Carrie Samis at csamis@mdcoastal

Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

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