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Environmental Education in New Jersey: A Call to Action


Section 5

Strengthening Statewide Structure and Support for

Environmental Education in New Jersey


Environmental literacy of our citizens depends, in great part, upon the hundreds of environmental education providers who deliver meaningful quality environmental education to adults, families and youth.

Currently environmental education programs are scattered throughout the state. Additionally there are networks, coalitions and statewide organizations that focus on varied facets of environmental education such as green schools, sustainability and conservation education, etc. Collectively they would benefit from a structured and responsive statewide system of support that is attuned to the needs and supportive of the activities of all environmental education providers. The establishment and maintenance of such a statewide system is referred to as “capacity building.”

Capacity building means unifying, increasing, supporting and improving statewide and locally-based environmental education efforts. Creation of such a system is to be undertaken during a challenging time, when the need for environmental education services is urgent but the economy is severely restricted

As a result, the recommendations demonstrate a practical sensitivity toward the state’s economic and environmental challenges by striving to better serve the needs and interests of the state’s environmental education providers through improved use of the existing infrastructure and state level commitments already in place.

The commission and work group’s recommendations intend to highlight the focus of the state’s directed environmental education efforts so that they are more purposeful, relevant, responsive and efficient, with special attention being given to the needs of environmental education providers.

Most of the recommendations in this section build upon work recently completed or services currently being provided by the NJCEE and IWG, the DEP and/or ANJEE.

Others suggest actions to be taken the Governor, the Legislature, leaders in education, environmental education, environmental protection, natural resource management, science and technology, environmental health, etc.

Due to limited personnel and financial resources the recommendations suggest strategies to unify and build on existing educational efforts, validate productive partnerships, plan proactively based on priorities, and act strategically and realistically.

Each year New Jersey spends millions of dollars to reduce pollution and waste, clean up properties and communities, protect natural resources, and other related activities. Investment today in environmental education for an environmentally literate citizenry may prevent huge payments later for cleanup and remediation.

There is no order of priorities intended in this list of recommendations. All are considered to be equally important.

Develop and implement a five-year (pre-K-12) environmental literacy plan (ELP) that provides the framework for NJ schools to expand and improve their environmental education programs. A state environmental literacy plan will:

·         Ensure that environmental education activities are aligned with student graduation requirements and help achieve state education goals;

·         Ensure that environmental education is fully, efficiently and appropriately integrated into formal education systems;

·         Ensure that teacher professional development opportunities in environmental education are aligned with student achievement goals in environmental literacy;

·         Ensure consistency, accuracy and excellence in environmental data and information;

·         Engage underserved communities through an inclusive process so that all stakeholders are beneficiaries of environmental education in schools;

·         Ensure that non-formal environmental education providers are involved appropriately and effectively in environmental education activities in schools; and

·         Serve as a necessary component of a comprehensive state environmental education program.


This plan would be developed by New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) in cooperation with DEP, the commission and work group, and other representatives of formal, environmental, science and technology education organizations, as determined by DOE.

The development and implementation of a New Jersey Environmental Literacy Plan would include:

A.    Review of current environmental education efforts in New Jersey schools to establish baseline understanding of student environmental literacy;

B.     Identification of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards necessary to develop environmentally literate students;

C.     Identification of model environmental education in-classroom, outdoor classroom, after-school and service-learning experiences that can be integrated into existing school curricula and programs;

D.    Professional development opportunities for in-service teachers, pre-service teachers, and non-formal environmental educators;

E.     Alignment of high performance (LEED) school building construction and operations activities with New Jersey’s environmental literacy plan’s goals and implementation strategies and local school curricula;

F.      Methods for measuring and reporting on the progress regarding students becoming environmentally literate graduates; and

G.    Process for revising or updating the New Jersey Environmental Literacy Plan every five years or on an as needed basis.

Reports regarding the status of the environmental literacy plan would be an ongoing activity of the NJCEE and ongoing commission meeting proceedings and reports would include updates on the plan.

Develop and implement a campaign to promote nature-based outdoor and indoor experiences for children and families and establish a statewide coalition to support these endeavors. This campaign will:


·         Increase access to naturalists and environmental educators on park and public lands to provide interpretive and educational activities for children and families to enhance their discovery and enjoyment of nature and natural resources;

·         Increase access to museum and science educators in science facilities, museums, zoos and aquariums, to provide nature and science-based activities for children and families to enhance their discovery and enjoyment of nature and science;

·         Increase opportunities for underserved communities to access parks and public lands, especially in New Jersey’s metropolitan areas;

·         Increase opportunities for children to experience nature play spaces; and

·         Increase opportunities for curriculum-aligned programs and service learning on park and public lands.


Develop and maintain a New Jersey electronic directory and/or searchable database of all New Jersey environmental education providers (in cooperation with the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education).


The development and maintenance of a New Jersey Environmental Education Electronic Directory would include:

A.    Finalization of directory contents, design, format and means of operation;

B.     Inventory to collect and store data and information from NJ environmental education providers;

C.     Incorporation of data into the directory system;

D.    Promotion of directory to educators, families and the public at large; and

E.     Monitoring and tracking of directory use and ongoing updating of contents.


Conduct two New Jersey Environmental Education Leadership Forums every 5 years.


The purpose of a NJ Environmental Education Leadership Forum is to assemble statewide leaders in environmental education with providers in that field and leaders in formal education and non-formal education, to share and exchange priorities, plans, needs, upcoming announcements, opportunities for collaboration, etc.

One forum would focus on environmental education delivered through formal education systems, pre-school through grade 12, as well as higher education. The other would focus on environmental education to be delivered through non-formal educational methods, such as through educational facilities, nature centers, parks, organizations, municipalities, etc.

Forum results will be shared with all interested parties and will be integrated into the ongoing work of the commission and work group and the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education.

Improve communication and coordination between environmental education providers by strengthening the information and dissemination structure and network between them (in cooperation with the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education).


The strengthening of New Jersey’s information and dissemination structure and network would include:

A.    Solicit needs for, uses of, and preferred methods of receiving information about environmental education, from environmental education leaders and providers;

B.     Modify the contents, design and delivery of EEdNEWS and the EEdNEWS e-directory, to incorporate and reflect results from this solicitation;

C.     Modify the contents, design and delivery of ANJEE ONLINE and ANJEE ALERT to incorporate and reflect results from this solicitation;

D.    Promote these services to all New educators as well as persons interested in environmental education; and

E.     Monitor and track the use of these services and update contents regularly.


Expand Interagency Work Group membership and increase work group visibility within their respective agencies, in order to facilitate the planning and leveraging of state and federal resources for environmental education in New Jersey. Steps would include:


A.    Increase and diversify IWG membership to ensure ongoing representation from all appropriate agencies or agency programs;

B.     IWG members to meet quarterly with commission to discuss agency offerings, goals and priorities, opportunities for partnerships for grants and federal funds, collaboration, and promotion of resources to environmental education providers and other constituents;

C.     Maintain current electronic communications network between all work group and commission members;

D.    Conduct an inventory of all principal agencies and identify all programs, services, funding sources, expertise, technologies and information sources that support environmental education in New Jersey;

E.     Integrate the results of the inventory into the existing electronic environmental education directory; and

F.      Develop a year-end report to be shared electronically with the Governor, New Jersey State Legislature, cabinet, environmental education providers, leaders in the educational and environmental communities, and the public at large.


Strengthen the role and stature of the New Jersey Commission on Environmental Education with the New Jersey Departments of Education and Environmental Protection, so that it can better serve the needs and interests of New Jersey environmental education providers and advise the Interagency Work Group regarding how best to conduct its activities. Steps would include:


A.    Finalize operating procedures for the commission that include term limits as well as guidance for the selection of commission membership. Promote commission openings regularly to environmental education providers and constituents and develop a library of interested candidates;

B.     Commission members to meet quarterly with the IWG to discuss the needs, interests and activities of environmental education providers. Provide guidance to the work group regarding potential partnerships for grants and federal funds, collaboration, and the promotion of state resources to environmental education providers and other constituents;

C.     Maintain current electronic communications network between all work group and commission members;

D.    Assist with the development, implementation and follow-up related to the New Jersey Environmental Education Leadership Forums;

E.     Assist with the development, implementation and follow-up related to the annual celebration of New Jersey Environmental Education Week and Earth Day; and

F.      Develop a year-end report to be shared electronically with the Governor, New Jersey State Legislature, cabinet, environmental education providers, leaders in the educational and environmental communities, and the public at large.


Identify a team of four to eight state government employees who would help administer the needs and services of the commission and work group. Responsibilities of team would include:


A.    Conduct inventory of state environmental education resources and funding sources and document and promote results;

B.     Promote the leveraging of state and federal funds when pursuing grants, use of in-kind state resources, and the potential pursuit of state revenue or other source of generated income to be used for environmental education;

C.     Develop and implement two NJ environmental education leadership forums and document, share and integrate results with ongoing work of commission and work group, ANJEE, and relevant environmental education providers;

D.    Design, develop, implement, promote and monitor the NJ environmental education electronic directory;

E.     Maintain EEdNEWS e-mail list and its e-library of information and resources;

F.      Promote annually Environmental Education Week and Earth Day in New Jersey;

G.    Administer the meetings and activities of the commission and work group and develop and distribute year-end reports regarding their work; and

H.    Work with the ANJEE to advance environmental education.


Engage the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education in the implementation of Environmental Education in New Jersey - A Call to Action. ANJEE works to:

·         Assist with development, implementation and follow-up from the two NJ environmental education leadership forums;

·         Provide enrichment and networking opportunities for NJ environmental education providers through the annual state environmental education conference, regional meetings and programs, and other ANJEE services;

·         Advocate for supporting, improving and increasing the delivery of environmental education for all ages in NJ by monitoring and promoting interest and involvement in, as well as support for, federal and state legislation and policies regarding the field of environmental education;

·         Monitor EE and natural history interpretation certification programs for formal and/or non-formal EE providers (nationally and in other states) and determine if, how and when such certification programs should be administered in New Jersey;

·         Promote and to provide professional development in the use of NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence;

·         Improve and maintain the communications network with ANJEE members and EE providers regarding organizational activities, funding opportunities, EE advocacy, and other information; and

·         Promote the field of EE to public by participating in the annual celebration of NJ Environmental Education Week and Earth Day and by promoting ANJEE services and initiatives, as appropriate.


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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2010
Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: September 23, 2009

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