Voices in Education

Let’s Leave No Child Inside
Our country has a growing problemour kids are spending less time outdoors learning and exploring and more time inside hooked up to video games or surfing the web. Lucy Hood’s recent piece, “The Greening of Environmental Ed,” provided a good look at how science teachers are combating this problem through their curricula and teaching methods. I’d like to offer an additional viewpoint.

Those I have worked with in the environmental community believe that environmental education is not only about protecting the natural world, it has also been shown to improve the physical health of our young people and to have a measurably positive impact on student achievement in science, reading, math, and social studies. Yet, many schools are being forced to scale back or eliminate environmental programs. State and local administrators and teachers point to two factors behind this recent and disturbing shift: the unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act, such as narrowed curriculum, and a lack of funding for these critical programs.

In Congress, I authored a bill called the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI) that promotes environmental education by creating new federal grant opportunities for environmental education curriculum development and teacher training. States that participate in the grant program would develop a K-12 plan to ensure high school graduates are environmentally literate. The legislation is supported not only by a coalition of over 1900 local, regional, and national organizations, but also primary and secondary schools and universities.

I will be re-introducing NCLI this year and hope that the measure will garner broad, bi-partisan support. I’m encouraged that the Administration has included environmental education in its “Blueprint for Reform” and look forward to including it in legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education.

Robust environmental education is a down payment to grow the next generation of scientists, promote environmental stewardship, and encourage Americans to live healthier lifestyles. The United States can no longer afford to treat environmental education as optional. It is critical for helping young Americans make the complex conceptual connections between economic prosperity, lifestyle choices and energy use, environmental health and their own well being. Across the globe, problems caused by climate change, pollution, and resource depletion are increasingly acute: they are issues that will soon confront today’s young people.

For more information, please visit the NCLI Coalition web site or call my office in Washington, DC at 202-225-4016.

About the Author: John Sarbanes, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is a Democrat who has represented Maryland’s Third Congressional District since 2007.