School Grounds for Learning Project

The School Grounds for Learning Project is a new initiative funded by the NOAA-BWET grant program and supported by a partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and MAEOE, in cooperation with the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. With the invaluable support of national and regional partner organizations and topical experts, this exciting project will provide professional development opportunities and comprehensive online resources featuring detailed information and instructions to enable students, teachers, administrators & school facilities personnel to effectively plan, utilize and sustain a vast variety of environmental projects on school grounds including: 

  • Whole site planning
  • Projects to provide habitat for wildlife
  • Projects to improve water quality
  • Projects to support a healthy school environment
  • Projects to reduce environmental impact and cost;
  • Projects to incorporate natural elements to encourage outdoor learning & discovery

These dynamic resources are being designed to facilitate the effective hands-on implementation of environmental literacy, the pursuit of state Green School certification and U.S. Green Ribbon School status, and the development and continued use of high quality, sustainable indoor and outdoor learning environments across the Mid-Atlantic region in keeping with the goals of the Mid-Atlantic Elementary & Secondary Environmental Literacy Strategy.

Learn more about the School Grounds for Learning Project: 


Who is developing School Grounds for Learning Project resources?

 To ensure the content is useful and applicable to a wide audience, contributors include: national & regional partner organizations representing a variety of interests including education, conservation & restoration; outdoor environmental education centers working with school grounds projects; school facilities management & personnel; teachers & administrators who have developed sustainable projects on their school grounds and have integrated their use into instruction; agency & non-governmental organizations developing best practices for the enhancement of school grounds to improve water quality, increase habitat value, support innovative agriculture programs and more; landscape architects with expertise in innovative design of school grounds; and topical experts in a variety of fields.

Who is the target audience for the School Grounds for Learning Project resources?

With the support of the above-mentioned partners and contributors, these resources are being thoughtfully developed to provide targeted information for use by students, teachers, administrators and school facilities personnel interested in effectively designing, enhancing, utilizing and sustaining environmental projects on their school grounds.

What is the timeline for all of the online resources to be available?

Initiated in 2014, the School Grounds for Learning Project is a three-year effort.  A comprehensive new online environmental literacy section was added in January 2015, featuring information on national, regional and local environmental literacy initiatives, including the Maryland environmental literacy standards & graduation requirement and efforts to support implementation. Project sections are currently under development. Sections will be reviewed by stakeholders and contributors, and added gradually beginning in 2015 on the NOAA Bay Backpack and MAEOE web sites. Resources will be monitored and updated accordingly to ensure that the content is current and correct. For more information please contact Laura Collard at

Why do we need the School Grounds for Learning Project?

The School Grounds for Learning Project resources are being designed specifically to facilitate the effective hands-on implementation of environmental literacy (including Meaningful Watershed Environmental Education (MWEE) experiences), the pursuit of Green School and U.S. Green Ribbon School status, and the development and continued use of integrated, sustainable indoor and outdoor environmental learning projects that provide substantial benefit to both students and the environment:

  • Environmental Literacy: Tremendous efforts have been made in recent years to support opportunities for the development of environmentally literate students and citizens. Many states have developed Environmental Literacy Plans to provide a framework for school systems to expand and improve environmental education programs. Significant regional and local initiatives are also developing detailed strategies to support schools, teachers and administrators as they implement programs to achieve student environmental literacy and pursue more sustainable practices in school buildings and on school grounds.  The School Grounds for Learning Project increases the capacity of schools and school systems to support environmental literacy standards and initiatives by providing resources to achieve these environmental literacy goals. Click here to learn more about national, regional and local environmental literacy efforts.
  • Achieving Green School Status: The effort to support and create sustainable “Green Schools” has caught fire across the nation in recent years and continues to gain momentum.   Green Schools focus on developing programs and projects that conserve & restore natural resources, enhance student health & learning, facilitate environmental literacy and nurture an ethic of sustainability.  The National Green Schools Network spearheads the national effort to encourage the development, expansion and collaboration of Green Schools across the country, including hosting a national conference and offering a GreenPrint “road map” for schools interested in adopting healthy, sustainable practices on a large or small scale.  Many states have developed Green School certification programs, including model programs in the Mid-Atlantic region.  The School Grounds for Learning project resources have been aligned with recognized Green School best management practices to support and facilitate efforts by schools to design and implement projects to qualify for Green School status in their area. Click here to learn about the MAEOE Maryland Green School Awards Program and other Green School certification programs across the country 
  • Achieving U.S. Green Ribbon School Status: The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award program recognizes schools with combined achievements in three “Pillar” areas: Reducing environmental impact and costs; Improving the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Providing comprehensive and integrated environmental education. The structure and content of the School Grounds for Learning Project resources are aligned with the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools pillars to help school staff design and implement projects that meet the requirements for a U.S. Green Ribbon Schools award application.  Click here to learn more about the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award program.
  • Project Benefits for Students, Schools & the Environment: Each School Grounds for Learning project section will feature information on each particular project’s specific uses and benefits.  Across the board however, the creation and integrated use of sustainable outdoor learning environments on school grounds present tremendous benefit for students, schools, and the surrounding environment.  Click here for an Annotated Bibliography of Original Research Supporting Outdoor Learning & Play.