Delaware Pathways learners are environmentally literate when they “possess the knowledge, skills, understanding, attitude, experiences, and motivation to sustainably use, enjoy, and protect natural and cultural resources” through their chosen career pathway (Delaware Environmental Literacy Plan, 2015).
Delaware’s Environmental Challenges & Economic Opportunities
Due to its coastal location, Delaware continues to face increased temperatures and rising sea levels, in addition to heavy precipitation and flooding. Recognizing potential economic and environmental challenges, state administrators and lawmakers have responded, first through the Delaware Environmental Literacy Plan (2015) and Delaware’s Climate Action Plan (2021) and more recently through the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023.
Nationally, labor economists estimate 24 million green jobs (with a $1.3 trillion value) will be created by 2030 in response to the challenges spurred by climate change. Delaware currently ranks among the top five states with the highest number of clean energy jobs per capita.
Response From Education and Partners
Delaware educators and workforce partners recognize that an environmentally literate workforce is necessary to create and access clean energy jobs; build a green consumer market; develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues; seek environmental justice in local and global issues; and have the skills needed to make informed, responsible, and environmentally sound decisions. Environmental literacy is the desired outcome of environmental education and provides our future workforce with sound scientific information, as well as skills for critical thinking and creative, strategic problem solving.
As a result, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and Advance CTE have partnered to develop: (1) environmental literacy competencies for Career Technical Education (CTE) (see below); (2) an environmental literacy framework expanding on these competencies; and (3) a technical assistance and professional learning plan for implementation in related CTE programs of study. The environmental literacy framework will provide an opportunity for educators, employers, and community members to align knowledge, skills, and action planning strategies. In addition, it will support meaningful connections between academic content and technical learning for educators and learners, as well as an integrated model of CTE and academic content professional learning.
Delaware’s Environmental Literacy Competencies
As Delaware learners of all levels prepare for future careers, they will achieve environmental literacy by analyzing, evaluating, and predicting environmental impacts, actions, and outcomes and applying this knowledge to career paths of their choosing. To be environmentally literate in their chosen career field, a CTE learner will be able to:
- Identify and explore career paths within a chosen industry that expose disparities and improve environmental outcomes for the economy, businesses, communities, and individuals.
- Explain human-created local and/or global environmental impacts within a chosen industry and the results of those impacts on economic, business, community, and individual health and wellness.
- Demonstrate an understanding of inter-relationships between and among components of environmental systems, e.g., atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), biosphere (living organisms), and pedosphere (soil).
- Conduct a cost-benefit analysis, with respect to a chosen industry, to evaluate the environmental, social, and economic impact of business and consumer decisions.
- Discern between rigorous environmental scientific research and speculative interpretations.
- Identify and analyze environmental issues, policy, regulations, and legislation with respect to a chosen industry.
- Propose new or updated policy, regulations, and/or legislation that support environmental conservation, energy efficiency, environmental justice, and/or health and wellness in the workplace or community.
Connection to Other Subject Areas
One goal of the Delaware Environmental Literacy Plan (2015) is to “[i]ntegrate environmental education, Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core, and Delaware Social Studies Standards.” The Next Generation Science Standards indicate that learners must have a solid scientific, environmentally literate K-12 education regardless of their career pathway.
Recognizing the cross-cutting and interdisciplinary nature of Delaware Pathways, these environmental literacy competencies are specifically designed to connect to Delaware science and social studies standards.
Developing this set of competencies completed year one of a two-year grant. Remaining planned activities are as follows:
Focus Groups, Feedback Sessions, and Personal Interviews
To ensure that the needs of learners, instructors, and community partners are met, focus groups, feedback sessions, and personal interviews will be conducted by DDOE through the end of 2023. The purpose of these sessions will be to better understand the challenges and needs pertaining to implementation of the competencies, as well as to further inform development of an environmental literacy framework and accompanying professional development. (Fall-Winter 2023)
Development of Full Environmental Literacy Framework
This framework will expand on the competencies, providing examples of how they can be implemented with fidelity across CTE classrooms statewide. The framework will include connections to Delaware Pathways, a sample listing of green jobs in each sector, sample activities aligned to the list of competencies, and other resources to aid educators in helping CTE learners become more environmentally literate. (Winter-Spring 2024)
Professional learning will take place at the state and national levels. At the state level, CTE instructors will receive professional development training on the importance of these competencies and how to incorporate them into their CTE curriculum. Sample activities informed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Meaningful Watershed Environmental Experiences, Delaware environmental educators, and other existing platforms will be leveraged to ensure that instructors can incorporate these activities in the classroom. (Spring-Summer 2024)
Student voice will be centered to develop and facilitate focus groups and analyze the groups’ results and to inform updates to the competencies, as well as the development of the environmental literacy framework and professional learning plan. Identified focus groups include CTE administrators, CTE educators, and middle and high school CTE students. Classroom visits with CTE instructors who are incorporating environmental literacy activities into their instruction will also be conducted to identify promising practices that are transferable to other classroom settings.
Feedback sessions will be held with members of DDOE’s CTE workgroup (and others as needed) and Delaware’s Environmental Literacy Community of Practice (CoP) (to include related state agencies and employers).
Interviews will be held with employers and state agencies (if not part of the Environmental Literacy CoP), community partners, postsecondary partners, and learners, as appropriate and as indicated through survey results.
Acknowledgements and Other Resources
This work is funded through a Bay Watershed Education and Training grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with Advance CTE Our collective efforts will enhance opportunities for Delaware learners, inform updates to The National Career Clusters® Framework, and serve as a national model for the integration of environmental literacy in Delaware’s CTE programs of study.