No Child Left Inside: New Legislation for K-12 Environmental Education

On Sept. 18, 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives passed The No Child Left Inside Act of 2008, H.R. 3036, which was sponsored by John P. Sarbanes (D-MD) and co-sponsored by 64 others.

H.R. 3036 amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. No Child Left Inside would extend the National Environmental Education Act of 1990, which itself provides teacher training and support program funding. The act is intended to support local and statewide efforts to expand and improve K-12 environmental education, which is shown to help boost student achievement, build critical thinking and social skills, improve student behavior, and enhance teaching. We’ll take a closer look at what H.R. 3036 proposes and who is supporting it.

What will The No Child Left Inside Act accomplish?

Strong environmental education will ensure that future generations will have the necessary knowledge and skills to tackle the complex issues facing our planet. The No Child Left Inside Act will help schools that have had to scale back or eliminate environmental education. Students will be given a chance to experience environmental education that includes interdisciplinary study and links classroom instruction to field investigation, further enhancing students’ critical thinking skills.

The No Child Left Inside Act will specifically help schools and states enhance and expand environmental education; offer opportunities for ongoing professional development of our nation’s teacher, meaning more qualified teachers in our classrooms; and create the National Capacity Environmental Education Grant Program to award competitive grants for non-profits, local and state education agencies, and higher education institutions in order to start and strengthen environmental literacy plans.

Grantees will also be required to ensure environmental education programs and curricula challenge state and local academic content standards while also advancing interdisciplinary courses including strong field components. Program quality would also be measured, including whether it enhances an understanding of the natural and built environment, fosters interdisciplinary understanding of environmental issues, increases achievement in STEM subjects, and increases the understanding of the benefits of being exposed to nature.

Who is supporting H.R. 3036?

An extensive group of environmental and educational organizations are supporting H.R. 3036. The groups include the American Recreation Coalition, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Council for Science and the Environment, the National Education Association, the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Wildlife Federation, the North American Association of Environmental Education, the Outdoor Industry Association, the Wilderness Education Association, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the YMCA of the USA.