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Environmental Education Bridges the Partisan Divide in Congress

Education Environmental 300x125 Environmental Education Bridges the Partisan Divide in CongressBy Jackie Ostfeld

In a welcome break from partisan gridlock, congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have come together to advance environmental education and outdoor learning opportunities for students across America. Congressmen John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) reintroduced the No Child Left Inside Act of 2013. If passed, the bill would encourage states to implement environmental literacy plans for K-12 students.

Schools and educators are increasingly seeing the value of environmental education which has been shown to improve motivation to learn, self-esteem, critical thinking and academic performance across subject areas. Research has even found that just a few days of outdoor environmental instruction may improve science test scores by as much as 27 percent. Getting outdoors also encourages physical fitness, reduces stress and lessens the symptoms of attention-deficit disorders which, in turn, improve the ability of our students to learn.

“Environmental education must be a national priority,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Hands-on, outdoor interaction with the environment enhances student achievement — not only in science, but also in reading, math, and social studies. By investing in education that will grow the next generation of innovators, scientists and environmental stewards, we will prepare our workforce of the future to meet the many economic, environmental, and energy-related challenges our country is facing.”

Safeguarding our communities and protecting our air, water and lands from environmental threats will require a sustained effort and a well-educated generation (or two) to respond to challenges with innovative and smart solutions. Today’s youth will have to help tackle future environmental threats as adults, yet our students are not being provided with the basic environmental education foundation needed to address these challenges.

Unfortunately, schools are pressed for resources to implement environmental education programming. The No Child Left Inside Act would begin to address this challenge by encouraging states to develop and implement environmental education plans for their K-12 students.

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