Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Capitol Hill Goes "Wild" for No Child Left Inside Environmental Education Initiative
WASHINGTON, DC - In celebration of National Environmental Education Week, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD) today joined with local school children, animal ambassadors from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and leading environmentalists to rally for passage of The No Child Left Inside Act, a new $100 million a year initiative to strengthen environmental education programs and reconnect more kids with nature.
"Teaching children about the environment and giving them a hands-on opportunity to experience nature should be an important part of the curriculum in our schools. This legislation will free up critical funding for environmental education to inspire the next generation of scientists and conservationists," said Senator Reed, a member of both the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal spending on education programs. "This legislation is a smart investment in our children's future and the future of our planet."
"Children today spend more time inside watching television or playing video games than they do outdoors," said Congressman John Sarbanes. "One way to get our young people outside is to educate them about the environment; No Child Left Inside seeks to do this by incorporating environmental education and outdoor opportunities into our schools' instructional curricula."
The students and lawmakers were joined at the rally on Capitol Hill by clouded leopard cubs, an alligator, armadillo, flamingo, and palm civet from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, as well as Jack Mulvena, Director of Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.
Outdoor education helps give students a well-rounded educational experience, 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 field trips. 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.
"When you get kids outside and teach them about nature, it helps them raise achievement in other studies and has important health benefits too," noted Reed.
"Children benefit when they are outdoors in so many ways," said Congressman Sarbanes. "Raising their consciousness of the natural world makes them better environmental stewards."
The Reed-Sarbanes No Child Left Inside Act seeks to authorize $500 million over five years to help states make environmental education a bigger priority in America's classrooms.
The legislation has key backing from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Coalition, a broad-based organization made up of more than 195 environmental, educational, business, public health, and outdoor recreation organizations from across the United States. For more information about the NCLI Coalition, visit: www.NCLICoalition.org
The No Child Left Inside Act (S. 1981) would authorize $100 million a year over five years. Specifically, the legislation will:
• Create grant programs for teacher training and environmental education;
• Provide funding to states that create environmental literacy plans for grades K-12;
• Re-establish the Office of Environmental Education within the U.S. Department of Education to oversee critical environmental education activities; and
• Authorize the Secretary of Education to award competitive matching grants to nonprofit organizations, states, and local education agencies for activities to improve and support environmental education that include: (1) advancing content and achievement standards; (2) developing or disseminating innovations or model programs; (3) research; and (4) creating new funding sources.