Earth Day 2024 leads Governor Wes Moore to establish new Maryland Outdoor Learning Partnership

23 April 2024- Governor Wes Moore today visited the Maryland Department of the Environment’s headquarters in Baltimore in celebration of Earth Day. During the visit, the governor discussed the agency’s work to combat climate change, reduce pollution, and promote environmental stewardship. Governor Moore also participated in a ceremonial tree planting and signed an executive order establishing the Maryland Outdoor Learning Partnership—a new group of state agencies, educators, and nonprofits tasked with ensuring Maryland students have meaningful access to outdoor education about the environment, climate, and the natural world.

“We owe it to the people of Maryland to keep our drinking water clean, keep our air safe, and preserve our natural treasures – from the Western Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Gov. Moore. “The hard-charging team at the Maryland Department of the Environment is helping us lead the way in environmental stewardship and climate action — while also creating good-paying jobs. Together, we will continue our work to build a Maryland that is cleaner, greener, and thriving.”

The Outdoor Learning Partnership, which will absorb the Project Green Classrooms program, will be an interagency collaboration including state agencies, federal partners, non-profit environmental and outdoor education organizations and formal education partners. More than two dozen organizations will be invited to join the partnership, including the Living Classrooms Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the National Aquarium, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. 

“We all have the power to make a difference when it comes to environmental stewardship, and I thank Governor Moore for his leadership on fighting pollution to make Maryland a healthier place to live,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Serena McIlwain. “Young people are already our greatest asset in tackling our climate challenges because they understand the threat. Now we are giving them the tools.”

The goal of the partnership is to develop Maryland students as environmental caretakers by providing structured, outdoor educational opportunities where they can learn how to access, conserve, and restore the state’s natural resources. The partnership will also recommend ways for school systems to lessen the impacts their buildings and grounds have on local waterways and the environment, such as by reforesting unused land or developing renewable energy sources.

“Students can learn about the environment in a classroom, but taking them outside to experience those concepts in a forest, on the Chesapeake Bay, or in their own backyards brings those lessons to life,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz. “These outdoor experiences also help improve students’ overall well-being. Studies have shown that today’s students are spending more time indoors and less time in nature. This partnership can help reduce that trend by educating students about the unique natural places throughout Maryland and how students can help us conserve them.”