Today’s kids may be able to read, write, and multiply, but will they be able to relate to the environment?
The U.S. House of Representatives addressed this question when they voted last Thursday on the No Child Left Inside Act, an overlooked yet important piece of legislation. The act, which passed with bipartisan support, provides environmental education grants to public schools that offer more outdoor, experience-based science learning. It also requires that graduating high school seniors have a certain level of environmental literacy. The act is attached to a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, originally passed in 2001.
Such measures are necessary because research shows that children are spending less time outdoors, exploring nature and engaging in unstructured play. Part of the problem could be that the original No Child Left Behind Act requires public schools to assess student performance through standardized testing in order to receive federal school funding. As a result, schools are consumed with upping their test scores in math and reading, and time spent out of the classroom teaching science through experience-based learning has decreased dramatically – in some schools up to 33%.
Climate change and environmental stewardship may seem like abstractions to some parents, but their children’s health probably doesn’t. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that as the hours devoted to outdoor education have dropped, the rate of childhood obesity has risen. In addition, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder has been linked to “nature deficit disorder,” a term coined by Richard Louv, author of the 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods.”
Bipartisan support, a strong grassroots movement by educators, and a vote of 239 to 109 in the House of Representatives will hopefully give the No Child Left Inside Act the momentum it needs to pass through the Senate in the upcoming months.
In the meantime, turn off the computer. Turn off the TV. Take your son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, brother or sister by the hand, go outside and explore.
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