In February 2012 at the Green Schools National Conference in Denver, Colo., U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed the view that green schools are no longer part of a fringe movement. EE is, in fact, necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
Duncan, whose administration launched the Green Ribbon Schools Program, called for inclusion of EE in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The U.S. Senate voted in favor of the change in 2011, thus marking the first time EE has been formally included in federal K-12 education policy. The Campaign for Environmental Literacy lists approximately one dozen states with requirements for EE in their K-12 curriculums. And, according to the North American Association for Environmental Education, some 47 states and the District of Columbia are in the process of developing new or revised Environmental Literacy Plans.
Despite growing support for EE by state and federal governments, and studies proving that EE improves academic performance across the curriculum, its prevalence in U.S. schools is far from universal. And, few states have legislative mandates for it. Numerous factors, including lack of funding and narrowly defined lesson plans, have hindered widespread EE integration into K-12 curriculums.
Notwithstanding these realities, motivated teachers, students and parents have sought ways to incorporate environmental education activities into classrooms either as enrichment during school hours or after school. This includes starting environmental clubs and recycling programs, and participating in national conservation challenges. Through these channels, non-profit organizations have become increasingly involved with EE efforts in schools. The Green Schools Alliance (GSA) is one non-profit that has brought innovative environmental programs into K-12 schools within the U.S. and abroad.