No Child Left InsideSeptember 8, 2008 - by Donny Shaw
Most of the legislation the House will be dealing with this week is fluff, but there’s at least one interesting bill scheduled for later in the week – the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008.
The bill would authorize $100 million a year to state education departments and non-profits to develop and implement “environmental literacy” plans for grades K-12. Here’s how Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill’s lead sponsor, explains the need for his bill:
>Outdoor education helps give students a well-rounded educational experience with a deeper understanding of science, which is one of the reasons so many CEOs and business leaders support the Reed-Sarbanes No Child Left Inside Act. Yet, today, many schools are being forced to scale back environmental programs and cancel hands on scientific experiences. Teachers and principals point to two factors behind this troubling trend: the unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act, and a lack of funding for environmental programs.
Under the bill, each state would develop their own environmental literacy plan and submit it to the United States Department of Education for approval and funding. A recent Associated Press article explains that No Child Left Inside is a response to a nation-wide push to bring back outdoor field trips, even though tax revenues are declining in most states. “We’ve got this growing crisis on our hands where we’ve got these kids magnetized to the computer,” said John Griffin, head of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, which manages state parks. “This idea is really catching fire all over the country. … We want our parks to be not just parks but learning laboratories for kids.”
The bill lays out a few core objectives that should be part of any plan: preparing children to understand and address the major environmental challenges facing the United States, increasing field experiences as part of the regular school curriculum, creating programs that contribute to healthy life styles through outdoor recreation and sound nutrition, and enhancing professional development of teachers that improves their knowledge and skill in teaching environmental issues.
Here’s a video explaining some of the basic concepts behind environmental education:
To me, the most appealing thing about a hands-on, outdoor education is (as the video says) that it gives kids power and helps them realize they can do things that have a real impact on the world. I’m curious to know what you all think about this – not just the value of outdoor education, but also of setting aside federal money for this specific purpose.
(Flickr photo by Camp ASCCA used under a CC license)