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The Maryland State Department of Education approved an environmental literacy graduation requirement late last month, becoming the first state in the country to do so.

The requirement doesn’t put forth any specifics and it doesn’t force school systems to add courses. The local school boards will decide how to weave the core standards into already established classes at least once for students in elementary, middle and high schools.

School board member Maura Cook said last week that making sure students in general have some kind of an understanding of the environment and what kind of an impact they can have on it is a good thing.

We agree.

It’s another science, and our schools need to graduate more students proficient in the sciences. A focus on the environment could produce graduates interested in continuing to study environmental sciences, Cook said.

The environment will continue to be a major concern for the foreseeable future. Student needs to be in a position to be able to take an in-depth look at issues facing their communities, to make educated decisions and to take a role in resolving those issues if they so choose.

Charles County’s geography makes teaching about the environment and how it affects a community an easy target. The county is surrounded by water the Potomac, Patuxent and Wicomico rivers and their tributaries and the mighty Chesapeake Bay is not too far away. Environmental issues concerning these bodies of water alone offer the opportunity for real-world learning.

Actually, it’s the type of learning that is already going on in our schools. Students at Maurice J. McDonough High School built a rain garden to help filter the water making its way into the Port Tobacco River. Students at Westlake High School raised oysters in floats on the Potomac. This past school year, Thomas Stone High School students were taking lessons from Master Gardeners as they built gardens on school grounds. Fifth-grade curriculum in the county already has students taking overnight trips to the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Center. Other schools might have students planting trees or studying wetlands recently built behind their schools as they’ve done at Dr. Gustavus Brown and Arthur Middleton elementary schools.

We know students are well-versed in reuse and recycling. Whether they are learning to turn off the water while they’re brushing their teeth or turning off a light when they leave a room, environmental lessons are being taught starting at an early age.

Students don’t need to be taught any political views, but they can be taught how to be responsible citizens. There is no harm in teaching them how their actions can affect the communities where they live.