Michigan's Environmental Literacy Plan

Updates on Policy and Practice: MIELP

The Michigan Environmental Literacy Plan (MIELP) is a set of guidelines and resources intended to get K-12 students connected with the natural world.  MIELP was passed in 2011 with the vision of creating “environmentally literate citizens” who would be aware of, and good stewards of, Michigan’s natural resources. In order to create environmental literacy, MIELP proposes five goals to be integrated into state education curriculum.  These goals are 1) instill understanding of natural systems and interactions within the environment, including human interactions, 2) provide hands-on experience, time to play outdoors, and service learning opportunities, 3) ensure understanding of stewardship towards the natural environment as well as have opportunities to be an active steward, 4) prepare educators with knowledge and resources for incorporating environmental education into the classroom, 5) utilize classroom assessments to provide evidence student based environmental literacy.

There have been two bills passed nationally which have provided the framework for MIELP locally; the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (2011) and the No Child Left Inside Act (2013), which has now been modified to the Every Child Succeeds Act (2015). The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (2011) issued that each state develops a strategy for children to be active outdoors and to do a study of national significance on this Act. The No Child Left Inside Act (2013) supported the implementation of state environmental literacy plans and developing environmental education curricula. The Every Child Succeeds Act (2015) amended the No Child Left Inside Act (2013) by adding accountability goals and measures as well as school interventions in relation to environmental education and student success.

The MIELP website contains many resources related to understanding environmental education as a whole, informational videos related to environmental education, as well as research reports and other links. MIELP also has a Facebook page with informational posts about upcoming events and research articles.

MIELP is implemented locally through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Science & Environmental Education Endowment Fund. Locals created this endowment fund in order to help Ann Arbor schools provide hands-on experiences for students through curricula, field trips, and more.

Students around Ann Arbor participate in field trips all over the community, from touring the Water Treatment Plant to studying urban hydrology in Allen Creek and learning about trail etiquette from naturalist guides. These environmental learning experiences take place from kindergarten through seventh grade, with each grade focusing on a different environmental concept. The environmental program has also been associated with the University of Michigan for the past 4 years, in which middle school students participate in collaborative projects.

However, environmental education is not solely focused on field trips and outdoor experiences. The Ecology Center, an environmental education based non-profit, believes that environmental education should be incorporated into daily curriculum within the classroom so that students learn to see their typical surroundings as part of the natural world. For example, the Ecology Center visits local schools to teach second graders about how their daily decisions can make a difference on a much larger scale. The Grow, Eat, Throw program focuses on the life cycle of common food products and provides students with an opportunity to be environmental stewards every time they get hungry. The non-profit also hosts educational programs at Ann Arbor’s Materials Recovery Facility (Recycling Center), including annual visits by all of Ann Arbor sixth grade students. Touring the Materials Recovery Facility provides students with an inside look at the recycling process and how their decision to recycle can have lasting impacts.

The Ecology Center also offers Educator Training.  In 2017, a series of one-day K-12 Teacher Lesson Planning Workshops and regional Energy Works Training are planned.  For more information on the following opportunities, contact katy@ecocenter.org.

K-12 Teacher Lesson Planning Workshop

Want to use real data on compelling environmental issues to teach math or science? As every teacher knows, creating exciting new lessons for our students takes time we often do not have. Join Ecology Center educators for a day devoted to lesson planning using authentic environmental and human health data.  Following the workshop, the Ecology Center will provide materials to pilot newly developed lessons. Next session scheduled for February 11, 2017, 8:30am – 3:30pm.

Energy Works Michigan (3rd-12th grades)

Energy Works curriculum is a coordinated set of lessons designed to demonstrate energy technologies and empower students to find solutions to the energy challenges that Michigan faces.  Energy Works encourages students to think critically, be aware of their own values, and draw their own conclusions about environmental issues, while also helping students to become responsible citizens.

  • rigorously reviewed and classroom tested
  • adaptable to meet teacher needs
  • hands-on, aligned to Michigan’s NGSS
  • Michigan-specific case studies and information

The health of our communities, physical environments, and children are fundamentally tied to one another.  It is encouraging that we have leaders within Michigan working to establish measures like the Michigan Environmental Literacy Plan which recognizes this fact.  Although such plans do not have the force of law, they do articulate a vision and set the groundwork for defending the legitimacy of environmental education within our public system.  In this age of educational accountability, the bright excitement for nature and passionate stewardship of our youth are at risk of being lost in the shuffle of packed schedules and test scores. We thank those educators and policy-makers who have remained committed to environmental education as an enriching and essential part of our lives. 

Written by Katy Adams, Sydni Jourban, and Camille Hollins. 

Published on January 12, 2017