Washington D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Rhode Island’s U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Maine’s U.S. Senator Susan Collins, today introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen and expand environmental education in America’s classrooms to reconnect more kids with nature, improve their mental and physical health, and address critical environmental challenges.
The No Child Left Inside Act will help bring locally developed, high-quality environmental education programs to more schools nationwide by authorizing up to $150 million annually in federal assistance to states to develop and implement environmental literacy plans. The bill would also promote professional development for teachers on how to integrate environmental literacy and field experiences into their instruction and establish competitive grants to help schools partner with colleges and non-profits to expand research-based practices in outdoor education.
“Just as Oregon’s shores, forests and deserts have long been woven into the spirit of our state, America’s incredible public lands have made invaluable contributions to every region of our country,” said Senator Merkley. “It is our responsibility to be good stewards of those treasures—and to make sure our kids have the knowledge and resources to continue that stewardship—so these treasures can be enjoyed by future generations of hikers, hunters, fishermen, and other outdoor recreationists. I look forward to working with Senators Reed and Collins in ensuring our kids and future climate defenders have the education, experience, and knowledge of the world around them to protect Oregon’s—and America’s—great outdoor spaces for years to come.”
“Environmental education has so many positive impacts, from reconnecting kids with nature to health benefits, to boosting math and science test scores,” said Senator Reed. “The No Child Left Inside Act will help more states provide effective environmental education programs and integrate environmental literacy and outdoor learning into other core subjects. Ensuring students understand the natural world prepares them to navigate environmental challenges that impact our communities. Our bipartisan bill will help more kids get outside and ensure they are learning about the world around them so they can take better care of it and each other. Environmental awareness should be second nature for our young people and protecting the environment is crucial to future economic growth.”
“Maine’s abundant natural resources and pristine environment make it an idyllic place for children to grow up,” said Senator Collins. “From our verdant western mountains to our rugged coastline and all of the lakes, ponds, forests, and rivers in between, there are endless opportunities for young people to explore and enjoy the outdoors. Our bipartisan legislation would provide grants to states to integrate environmental education into their core curriculum and also establish an outdoor education pilot program so that students can learn more about the native flora, fauna, and ecosystems in their own backyard and be inspired with a lifelong love of nature.”
The No Child Left Inside Act will help provide federal grants to states for partnerships between school districts and parks, natural resource management agencies, educator preparation programs, museums or other organizations with expertise in engaging young people with real world examples of environmental and scientific concepts. When children explore the outdoors, it increases their physical activity level and may also help boost their self-esteem and improve their academic performance in other subjects. A study by the American Institutes for Research shows that children who participated in outdoor education programs significantly raised their science test scores by 27 percent, as measured by a pre- and post-survey administered immediately upon their return to school. This legislation also establishes a pilot program for outdoor school education programs that offer intensive, hands-on learning experiences, such as residential programs and summer camps. Additionally, the No Child Left Inside Act will help coordinate federal efforts on environmental education—requiring the Secretary of Education to establish an environmental literacy advisory panel to coordinate and report on environmental literacy activities across federal agencies.
“In my 34 years of public education, I’ve been involved with few initiatives as impactful as outdoor school education. Students make memories they carry for a lifetime. I am deeply appreciative of Senator Merkley’s effort to provide additional federal resources to our local programs,” said Mark Mulvihill, Ed.D, InterMountain ESD Superintendent.
Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD).
The No Child Left Inside Act has the support of nearly 100 organizations, representing educators, parks, museums, environmental organizations, and community-based organizations at the national, state, and local levels, including:
American Federation of Teachers
Association of Nature Center Administrators
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Children & Nature Network
Friends of Outdoor School
Gray Family Foundation
Institute for Humane Education
Kwauk and Associates
National Education Association
National Science Teaching Association
National Wildlife Federation
North American Association for Environmental Education
Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)
Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Project Learning Tree
The Center for Green Schools at USGBC
The Wild Center