Vol. 31 Iss. 19 - May 18, 2015



Establishing the VirginiaEnvironmental Literacy Challenge

Importance of the Issue

Virginia's natural resources and its environment are among theCommonwealth's most important assets. Our fields, forests, streams, and rivershelp to grow food, and ensure that we have clean air and water. The VirginiaConstitution details our responsibility to conserve and protect theseresources, saying in part, "To the end that the people have clean air,pure water, and the use and enjoyment for recreation of adequate public lands,waters, and other natural resources, it shall be the policy of the Commonwealthto conserve, develop, and utilize its natural resources, its public lands, andits historical sites and buildings."

An educated population who understand the value of ourenvironment is crucial to the protection of our natural resources. Futuregenerations should be prepared to continue the important work of conservation.Meaningful outdoor experiences and field investigations allow students to learnscience and other subjects through their observations of and interactions withnature. School sustainability programs can allow students to learn about thefundamental scientific mechanisms that make it possible to reduce the impact ofschool facilities on the environment. The teaching and learning ofenvironmental and sustainability concepts will ensure that today's studentswill have the knowledge and skills to be ready to take up the mantle tomorrow.Our ultimate goal is to develop and nurture a future environmentally literatecitizenry who will make informed decisions concerning the environment, and willdevelop the propensity to act on those decisions to improve the well-being ofother individuals, societies, and the global environment.

Today, environmental literacy is advocated and promoted by stateagencies, universities and nongovernmental organizations through the Virginia ResourceUse Education Council. Schools across the Commonwealth are learning more about environmentalchallenges and students are demonstrating that they are conserving natural resourcesand protecting the environment in their communities in significant ways.Students are learning to address complex issues, from science, economics and policyissues to cultural and global perspectives. Through the outdoor inquiry approach,students are becoming more engaged in learning, gaining content knowledge in allsubject areas, and increasing awareness about individual actions they can take torestore the health of the natural environment.

This Executive Order is designed to complement and support theefforts of the Virginia Resource Use Education Council by establishing my longterm vision for the Commonwealth that: 1) Virginia students graduate with theknowledge and skills to make informed environmental decisions; 2) educatorsresponsible for instruction about or in the environment have access tosustained professional development opportunities, tools, and resources thatsupport efforts to provide students with high quality environmental education;and 3) Virginia schools maintain their buildings, grounds, and operations  tosupport  positive environmental and human health outcomes.


Accordingly, by virtue of the authority vested in me asGovernor under Article V of the Constitution of Virginia and under the laws ofthe Commonwealth, and subject to my continuing and ultimate authority andresponsibility to act in such matters, I hereby create the VirginiaEnvironmental Literacy Challenge. This challenge will involve schools at theclassroom and school division levels. At the classroom level, individualteachers will be encouraged and supported as they engage their students ininnovative learning and programs, which ultimately support environmentalliteracy. At the school division level, the challenge gives school divisions apathway to engage and commit to taking a systemic approach to the promotion andimprovement of environmental literacy.

This Executive Order requires state agencies participating inthe Virginia Resource Use Education Council to take the following immediateactions:

1. Establish the Conservation Classroom Challenge. Inrecognition of the fact that classroom teachers are often the driving forcebehind environmental literacy and sustainability efforts, this classroom-levelchallenge highlights and will support the efforts of classroom teachers. TheConservation Classroom Challenge will provide educators with entry-levelresources to introduce students to environmental concepts and actions. Teacherswill be recognized for engaging their students in school-sustainability effortsand for participating in field investigations that connect to educational goalscontained within the Standards of Learning.

Implementation: State education and natural resource agenciesparticipating in the Virginia Resource Use Education Council shall:

i. develop classroom level challenges for various gradelevels that either: 1) engage students in reducing the impact of their school'sfacilities on their local watershed, environment, and human health, or 2)engage students in meaningful outdoor experiences that increase theirenvironmental  literacy;

ii. develop specific challenges by working with nongovernmentalpartner organizations that are engaged in the promotion of environmental literacy;

iii. combine specific challenges from partner organizationsand make them available to educators;

iv. establish an online tool for educators to self-report completionof these challenges; and

v. promote the Conservation Classroom Challenge throughwebsites, communications to school divisions, and information  distributed tooutside stakeholders.

2. Establish the Environmental Literacy Challenge forSystemic Sustainability (ELCSS). The best way to make a long-lasting impact onenvironmental literacy in the Commonwealth's schools is to take a systemicapproach. Accordingly, ELCSS is designed to recognize and encourage thoseschool divisions that want to make a significant commitment to environmentalliteracy.

Implementation: State education and natural resource agenciesparticipating in the Virginia Resource Use Education Council shall:

i. establish criteria for meeting this voluntary challenge(in consultation with outside partner organizations), including but not limitedto the following:

1. developing a systemic plan for environmental literacythat identifies environmental literacy programs and learning opportunities ateach grade level;

2. identifying an environmental literacy lead toparticipate in regional environmental literacy training or conferences to beled by state agencies and nongovernmental partner organizations, to promote andsupport environmental literacy learning within the division, identify curricularconnections, promote best practices, build partnerships, and designprofessional development;

3. engaging teachers in trainings and professionaldevelopment opportunities designed to improve their ability to use theenvironment as a context for learning in and out of the classroom;

4. committing to provide significant numbers of studentopportunities to participate in field-based environmental investigations andmeaningful outdoor experiences designed to improve environmental literacy;

5. providing environmental leadership training to principalsand administrators; and

6. dedicating existing local and state funding or seekingoutside funding partners for environmentally based activities in the public andprivate sectors;

ii. develop an application for school divisions todemonstrate their execution of the practices identified above;

iii. review applications on an ongoing basis and determinewhich divisions have completed the challenge;

iv. promote the Environmental Literacy Challenge forSystemic Sustainability through their websites, communications to schooldivisions, and information distributed  to outside stakeholders; and

v. coordinate with outside partners participating in theVirginia Resource Use Education Council to provide a list of potential outsidefunding partners to school divisions seeking to complete the EnvironmentalLiteracy Challenge for Systemic Sustainability.

Effective Date of the Executive Order

This Executive Order shall become effective upon its signingand shall remain in full forceand effect unless amended or rescindedby further executive order.

Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth ofVirginia this 22nd Day of April, 2015.

/s/ Terence R. McAuliffe