Published on November 19th, 2013 | by growwny0
Terminology Tuesday: Environmental Literacy
BY KIMBERLY MAY – NYS OUTDOOR EDUCATION ASSOCIATION WESTERN REGION COCHAIR
What Does Environmental Literacy Mean to You?
A child bounds through the tall grass with a smile. A grandfather keeps tally of the songbirds at his feeder. A husband and wife share in the satisfaction of a shoreline clean-up. A college student fervently participates in an environmental justice rally. Which of these images embodies the definition of “environmental literacy?” None? Some? All of them?
The New York State Outdoor Education Association (NYSOEA), the oldest, professional nonprofit organization in NYS promoting environmental education, defines an environmentally literate citizen as someone who: “…has a connection to the outdoor environment and a sense of place, understands the interconnectedness of all Earth systems, and is engaged and empowered to address environmental issues and their impact.”
Does this define you? Your family? Your community? Our children and young adults’ connection to the outdoor environment is completely severed. They are, instead, mentally and physically plugged into a virtual world more familiar to them than the plants, animals, and natural processes in their own backyard. However, it is our Western New York “backyard” that supplies our air, water, and food, without which we cannot survive. A healthy citizenry results from a healthy environment and a healthy environment results from an environmentally literate citizenry.
Envision a Western New York where all children are provided opportunities to become environmentally literate citizens through interdisciplinary environmental education and access to positive outdoor experiences. Teachers and students would be provided the essential resources for discovering humans’ role within the WNY environment while effectively fulfilling science, social studies, math, and language arts learning standards.
NYSOEA is partnering with WNY Environmental Alliance (WNYEA) and GrowWNY.org to work towards this vision. In 2009 a committee of NYS stakeholders drafted a New York State Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) following the guidelines of the influential North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE). 26 other states have already adopted or will soon adopt an ELP. New York State must advance our efforts to join the growing movement.
NAAEE’s parallel definition of an environmentally literate individual is “someone who, both individually and together with others, makes informed decisions concerning the environment; is willing to act on these decisions to improve the well-being of other individuals, societies, and global environment; and participates in civic life.”
What is your definition? Please share it by texting NYSOEA to 877-877 and participating in a Grow 716 texting campaign. Also, please participate in WNYEA’s Education and Outreach Process Group’s next meeting on December 2 at 3:30pm at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo (726 Exchange St. Suite 525, Buffalo, NY 14210). Environmental literacy is essential to every WNYEA Working Group and to every Western New Yorker. Please join the growing movement, and be part of the positive change. Together we can define an environmentally literate Western New York!