History of the Initiative

2008 Establishment and Kick-off Two children lying down in the woods

The Maryland Partnership for Children In Nature was created to ensure that every child in every community experiences nature directly and develops a personal connection with our environment. 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.

As one part of the State of Maryland’s commitment to re-connecting children and nature, the  Partnership for Children in Nature Executive Order was signed. This Executive Order formed a public-private partnership that provided structured and unstructured play activities for children in the outdoors.

With the Partner's leadership and more than 150 students, educators and business leaders attending, the Partnership kicked off with a rally in August 2008, hosted by the No Child Left Inside Coalition. The Partnership's 21-member board was introduced and tasked with finding creative ways to enable children throughout our State to get outside and learn about nature and make environmental literacy a part of every curriculum.

2008 Executive Order
2009 Key Themes and 10 Recommendations
2009 Final Report and Recommendations

Achievements and Ongoing Actions

2009: Early Achievements

The originally appointed group began implementation of the recommended actions toward its mission. Early achievements include:

  • The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights was released and continues to be promoted.
  • The Conservation Jobs Corps was established to provide young people with green jobs skills and outdoor opportunities. The CJC has since provided employment and job training in state parks for more than 2,000 at-risk youth (through 2014 and growing), who have completed $12.5M worth of park improvement projects.
  • An annual youth summit has been held in conjunction with the Maryland Green Schools Awards, providing thousands of Maryland children with a day on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park, environmental learning activities, and opportunities to meet dignitaries, showcase their work, and be recognized for their achievements.

2010 and 2011: Environmental Literacy is Elevated

The Partnership for Children In Nature was instrumental in helping the State to update the preK-12 environmental literacy education program (COMAR 13A.04.17.01) and to pass the first Environmental Literacy Graduation Requirement (COMAR 13A.03.02.03) in the Nation. Since then, the Partnership has worked diligently to support school systems as they develop and implement their local environmental literacy programs, fostering collaboration among formal and non-formal educators, helping to increase opportunities for student outdoor experiences and teacher professional development, and more.

2012 and beyond: Structured for Action

The structure of the Partnership was strengthened to support long term implementation of the actions. A 5-year agreement was signed in 2012 by 16 partners representing State, Federal, and local governments, school systems, non-profit and National organizations. The group continues to be co-chaired by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland State Department of Education. All signatories have a high level representative serving on the Leadership Team, which meets twice annually, and staff serving on the steering committee, which meets monthly.

Several workgroups involve numerous additional partners in activities throughout the year. Many Partnership members are also actively involved in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Mid-Atlantic Environmental Literacy Workgroup, a regional effort working to achieve the environmental literacy goal of the 2014. To learn more about the Partnership’s work, see the action plans and progress reports. Quarterly meetings are open and all interested in participating are welcomed.

2017: New Executive Order Establishes Renewed Commitment

On June 8, 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed a new Executive Order establishing Project Green Classrooms, renewing Maryland’s commitment to environmental education to ensure that every child in Maryland has the opportunity to experience, understand, and learn to conserve the natural environment. The executive order created a coalition of state agencies and other government and non-government partners working to mobilize resources and promote outdoor activities and environmental education through schools, in communities, and on public lands to benefit Maryland’s young people. This new group represents expanded membership and greater capacity to work more effectively across state government and among public and private sector partners, with new and exciting opportunities ahead.