BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It’s a distinction no other state shares. Maryland is the first to require all high school graduates to be environmentally literate.

Alex DeMetrick reports it’s a new rule built out of old concerns.

If it runs downhill in Maryland, it eventually ends up in the Chesapeake—a bay struggling to survive.

Here’s why:

“When there’s a rainstorm and you leave stuff in the yard, it goes into drains and it goes into the bay and it can hurt the animals,” said Jennifer Long, student.

A lot of Maryland students have been getting wet to learn about the bay’s web of life, even growing their own underwater grasses for planting in streams.

With a vote, Maryland’s school board is now requiring all students to become environmentally literate.

“This is the first time a high school requirement for environmental education has ever been passed by any state in this country,” said Will Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “I think this is the beginning of a movement that’s going to go across the country.”

Four hundred Maryland schools already teach some form of environmental education. Curriculum in these so-called green schools will now spread even further.

“The school has to do projects in different best management practices, so energy reduction, solid waste reduction, installing habitat,” said Joanna Schrader, Green Schools coordinator.

There’s not enough money for hands-on experiences for all students. Many may never leave the classroom.

“Environmental education is all about giving students knowledge, the knowledge to make responsible choices going forward in their lives,” Baker said.

Or stated more simply, “just learn about how we can keep the Earth and our environment better,” said one student.

And like water running downhill, that appreciation could help the Chesapeake Bay.

High school students entering as freshman this fall will be the first required to meet the new environmental standards, before graduating in 2015.