This week, I was shocked to learn that Congress did something worthy of approval. Both Democrats and Republicans came together to write and introduce the No Child Left Inside Act of 2013. Headed by Congressmen John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), the bill is intended to acquaint students in grades K-12 with nature.
Of course, as a formal environmental educator and current nouveau hippie, I am all for getting kids up off the couch and out exploring the landscape. Making sure that children get their daily dose of green not only helps to cultivate an understand of the world around them, but also improves test scores, alleviates stress and anxiety, and reduces symptoms of ADHD. Studies have shown that even a couple days of outdoor learning can improve science test scores by 27 percent. The hope for this legislation is to spur the next generation of scientists and conservationists as well as equip the youth with some pretty enormous environmental challenges that they will undoubtedly face in the future.
At the moment, schools across the country are pressed for resources, but at least the NCLI Act will begin to motivate educators to bring Mother Nature into the curriculum. There are some nationwide organizations available to help, including the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program, Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and the No Child Left Inside Coalition. For those living in San Luis Obispo and neighboring counties, the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) is an excellent place to find out what schools, camps, and preserves are in the area.
Fingers crossed for the passage of some enlightened legislation!