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By February 25, 2022News

Outdoor Learning Network Initiative Welcomes Two New Networks


The Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is pleased to welcome Baltimore City Public Schools and the Southeastern Virginia Environmental Education (SEVEE) Consortium to the Outdoor Learning Network Initiative (OLNI).

OLNI is a capacity building opportunity designed to advance environmental literacy goals by establishing local networks comprised of school districts and organizations who are committed to partnering and working collectively to embed environmental education into school system curriculum long-term.  The Initiative provides training, technical assistance, and ongoing support from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Local Concepts, as well as direct funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and NOAA over a two-year period.

“Meaningful environmental education lays the foundation for future restoration and protection of our local natural resources, said Dr. Jana Davis, president of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  “This program creates long-lasting networks and partnerships for the school system to ensure that environmental literacy is not just a focus but becomes an integral part of the curriculum as a whole.”

OLNI offers the training and support to establish a local environmental literacy leadership team, develop an environmental literacy plan for the school district, establish new partnerships, provide teacher professional development training, and design and implement a systemic Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience program.  Baltimore City Public Schools will partner with Baltimore City Recreation & Parks and Living Classrooms Foundation to build their collaborative network.  The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University will work with Hampton City Schools, Newport News Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, Portsmouth Public Schools, Suffolk Public Schools, Williamsburg City Public Schools, and to build the collaborative SEVEE network.

“The OLNI partnerships strive to ensure that every student in the district graduates with a comprehensive understanding of the environment, their community’s connections to it, and the responsibility we all share in protecting it,” said Tom Ackerman, Vice President for Education for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

It has been demonstrated in the Mid-Atlantic region that integrating environmental education programs into the curriculum has benefits for environmental literacy, academic achievement, and building an environmental stewardship ethic. Yet data of systemic environmental literacy programs in the region shows geographic gaps.  In 2015, the Chesapeake Bay Program working with the State Departments of Education developed an environmental literacy survey to assess school districts capacities and needs. The results of the survey showed the degree of support needed to advance the implementation of environmental education programming regionally.  As a result, OLNI was designed to address the identified gaps in high-need school districts on a regional scale.

“The education of all students should include a strong environmental component,” said Manager of Environmental Literacy and Partnerships for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, Shannon Sprague.  “By filling the gaps and creating lasting programs with meaningful environmental experiences for our students, we ensure the future advancement of research and restoration in the Chesapeake Bay region.”

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