WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to reconnect more kids with nature, improve their mental and physical health, and address critical environmental challenges, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today introduced legislation to strengthen and expand environmental education in America’s classrooms. 

The No Child Left Inside Act (S. 4041) 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.

Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD).

Recent studies show that kids today are spending less time outside than previous generations and more time on screens.  Yet the benefits of time outdoors and connecting with nature are numerous, including:

  •  Better school performance
  • Increased health and fitness and improved cognitive function and more creativity
  • Less depression, stress, and hyperactivity
  • More exposure to natural light and lots of outdoor physical activity improves children’s natural sleep rhythms
  • A longer life span and healthier adult life

“Environmental education has so many positive impacts, from reconnecting kids with nature to health benefits, to boosting math and science test scores.  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,” said Senator Reed.  “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.”

“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.”

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, and museums or other organizations with expertise in engaging young people with real world examples of environmental and scientific concepts.  The 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.

The No Child Left Inside Act will also help coordinate federal efforts on environmental education.  It requires the Secretary of Education to establish an environmental literacy advisory panel to coordinate and report on environmental literacy activities across federal agencies.  It will also provide easy access to environmental education resources through the Department of Education’s website.

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.

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

Choose Outdoors

Earth Force



Elevate Youth

Global Choices

Green Guardians

Institute for Humane Education

Kwauk and Associates

Latino Outdoors

National Education Association

National Science Teaching Association

National Wildlife Federation

North American Association for Environmental Education


Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)

Preston-Werner Ventures

REI Co-op

Sierra Club


Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Project Learning Tree

The Center for Green Schools at USGBC

The Wild Center


Wilderness Inquiry


Buffalo Audubon Society, Inc.

Cape Cod Hill School

Cathance River Education Alliance

Central Adventure Club

Chesapeake Bay Foundation


Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

Cincinnati Nature Center

Clear Lake Education Center

Denali Education Center

Dunes Learning Center

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

EmpowerEd DC

Environmental Education Alliance (Georgia)

Environmental Educators of North Carolina

Environmental Living and Learning for Maine Students

Friends of Acadia

Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed

Friends of Outdoor School

Gray Family Foundation

Great Smoky Mountains institute at Tremont

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

HealthReach Community Health Centers of Maine

Hitchcock Center for the Environment

Irvine Nature Center

Leaps of Imagination

Leslie Science & Nature Center

Maine Association for the Education of Young Children

Maine Environmental Education Association

Maine Public Health Association

Maine Youth for Climate Justice

Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education

Mississippi Delta Nature and Learning Center

Mount St. Helens Institute

Nature Based Education Consortium

Nature at the Confluence

New Hampshire Environmental Educators

Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center

Pajarito Environmental Education Center

Pfeiffer Nature Center

Potomac Valley Audubon Society, Inc.

Rhode Island Environmental Education Association

Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition, Inc.

Schenck High School Outdoor Education

Seven Ponds Nature Center

Severson Dells Nature Center

Shaker Lakes Regional Nature Center

Springbrook Nature Center

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

Stokes Nature Center

Teens to Trails

The Ecology School

The Education Action Forum of Maine

The Source School

Trout Lake Nature Center

Tubac Nature Center

Washington Trails Association

White Pine Programs

Wild Bear Nature Center

Wittenbach Wege Center - Lowell Area Schools

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center

Wyoming Alliance for Environmental Education