Posts Tagged ‘outdoor education’

There’s Nothing Like a Good Book

Back to school is in full swing and classes are gearing up for another great year!

But just because you’re out of school it doesn’t mean you stop learning. No, now we get to read things because we’re genuinely interested in them! Imagine that. It can be a freeing feeling to expand your knowledge just because you want to.

And the world of nature education is full of fantastic books to satisfy your appetite. This is a great list from Children at Nature Play.

So find a good book, sit outside under a tree with a glass of apple cider and enjoy fall!

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It’s a Jungle Out There!: 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids by Jennifer Ward
http://amzn.to/2evzzQE

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda McGurk of Rain or Shine Mamma
http://amzn.to/2xHqv3a (pre-order)

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
http://amzn.to/2wy1ZS5

A Natural Sense of Wonder by Rick Van Noy
http://amzn.to/2x2vJtp

Home Grown by Ben Hewitt
http://amzn.to/2vCPg3s

Sharing Nature by Joseph Cornell/Sharing Nature Worldwide
http://amzn.to/2ezTuRN

How to Raise a Wild Child by Dr. Scott Sampson
http://amzn.to/2iUrj1z

Whatever the Weather by Dawn Suzette Smith of Mud Puddles to Meteors
http://amzn.to/2wvGLWG

Companions in Wonder by Julie Dunlap and Stephen R. Keller
http://amzn.to/2xHTpAz

The Thunder Tree by Robert Michael Pyle
http://amzn.to/2vDdgU8

Wild Play by David Sobel
http://amzn.to/2wyMkSJ

Children & Nature: Making Connections by Orion Magazine/Myrin Institute

Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom of TimberNook
http://amzn.to/2vWbvfQ

Closer to the Ground by Dylan Tomine, Author
http://amzn.to/2vDbjHc

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The Sense of Wonder: Going Outdoors with Kids

From Super Nature Adventures:

2017-05-07-07-07-03It used to be that whenever we went hiking as a family, we were all “Go Go Go”. Did having a kid stop us? No way! We’d strap him into a backpack carrier and head on our way no matter how long the trail.  We were those people who’d brag about how far our kid hiked with us. Four miles, six miles… “oh, he’s good,” we’d say!

Then…well, then he grew too big for us to carry him.

There was whining. There were fits. Sometimes he’d seem tired one moment and be running the next. Or he would do something that seemed designed to unnerve us. One time, he just took off running in the direction of the trailhead as fast as he could. Another time he sat down on the trail and wouldn’t budge.

A while back, we sent out a survey to families about hiking that revealed that the kinds of challenges we were having are pretty much the norm. Lots of you shared stories about your kid rebelling while on the trail. As many of you noted, even if you are committed to getting outdoors, when kids revolt, going hiking with them can feel like a really big slog.

So…What to do about it? 
One resource that has helped us is Rachel Carson’s book, The Sense of Wonder. Carson is someone who is known as one of the founders of the modern environmentalist movement. As such, she has spent much of her career devoted to forging closer connections between people and the outdoors. The Sense of Wonder is great because in that book she focuses on the importance of nature for kids.

Here are a few of our favorite tips from The Sense of Wonder:

  1. “A child’s world is free and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.”  Kids see nature differently than adults. Often, our own sense of wonder has faded or even disappeared over the years. Carson argues that the one of the simplest things we can do to support kids is to rediscover our own sense of awe and share in their joy when they are excited about what they find out in nature.
  2. “Many children, perhaps because they themselves are small and closer to the ground than we, notice and delight in the small and inconspicuous.” While adults tend to be destination oriented, kids tend often get excited about the beauties in the world that we miss because, as Carson writes, “we look to hastily.”
  3. “It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.” Carson argues that kids must have a desire to learn first, and that our goals as parents should be to build that desire. Or to put in another way, early childhood is the time to “prepare the soil” for the “seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom.”
  4. “Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils and fingertips, opening up the disused channels of sensory impression.” We don’t need to be experts on nature to help our kids forge a closer connection to the outdoors. We do need to use our senses.
  5. Through these actions we can learn as much from our kids about the outdoors as they can learn from us. Children can help us strengthen our own sense of awe. For Carson, this is deeply significant. “Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life,” she writes. Through our sense of awe we find ourselves more connected to something beyond ourselves.

Carson’s advice has helped us to think about hiking from the kids’s perspective. We’ve put a lot of these ideas to work as we’ve been creating our monthly trail packets for Super Nature Adventures.  But you don’t have to only apply this advice to trails. Whether you are hiking with your child to a waterfall, or walking with them to the store, supporting a sense of wonder can help to deepen their connection to the outdoors.
~ Bryna

Tips for Teaching Groups Outdoors

Teaching kids outside is a great time. It can be a fun day of exploring and learning about the natural world. But if leading a group outdoors gives you anxiety, here are a few helpful tips from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology BirdSleuth program that can help you out.

 

Outdoor Teaching Tips

What’s Keeping you Inside? Tips for Leading Groups Outdoors

By Barbara Jacobs-Smith K-12 Education Team Resident Teacher Advisor
This blog is the first in our series on Outdoor Education.

As teachers and leaders of young people, I think we have an obligation to take children outside to learn whenever it’s practical to do so, even if it takes us out of our comfort zone. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor educator or new to taking groups outside, here are some general tips and techniques that can make leading a group in the great outdoors a positive, successful, and rewarding experience for everyone.

 

1. Plan ahead

As the leader, it is very important that you feel comfortable and confident. Before you go out with the kids, go out by yourself and scout the area. Walk the trail or explore the habitat. Consider where you’ll stop, how long you’ll spend, what features are noteworthy, and concepts that are applicable to the area. What questions can you pose to children, what activities lend themselves to the area, and how will you encourage structured interaction with nature? Make note of any potential hazards. Spending some quiet reflective time in the space you’ll be using can help make it feel like an extension of your own classroom and increase your comfort level teaching there.

2. Set clear expectations

Very young birders are

You no doubt have established expectations for student behavior in your classroom. It’s just as important to do this for the outdoors. Rather than a long list of rules, each starting with, “NO” (No talking, No running, No pushing, No interrupting), keep the list short and positive. “Stay on the trail. Remain with the group. Use materials responsibly.” Spell out the specific guidelines for the group when moving from one place to the next. This can be as simple as explaining that the group must travel as a sandwich. The leader is one slice of bread. Whoever is at the end of the line is designated as the other slice of bread. Everyone else is the yummy fixings that make up the sandwich. We must stay between the two slices of bread because we can’t have our sandwich falling apart!

3. Be a scientist

Third grade students making observations in the field.

When in the field, students should behave as the scientists they are, collecting data, making observations, whatever it is that you are expecting them to do, and doing so in a manner that is serious and focused on the task. It helps if students understand the purpose of their being outdoors. “You act differently when you’re outside for recess than you do when you’re outside for science.” Before you take the group outdoors, lead a discussion with students about specifically how it should look, feel, and sound differently.

4. Stealth mode

There is a time and place for quiet discussion and conversation between scientists working in the field. There is also a time for silence. When you are traveling along a path or through an area, it is far more likely that you’ll observe animals there if everyone is as quiet as mice, owls, or ants. You can call it moving in “stealth mode.” If animals hear a large group of people lumbering along, they will clear out, reducing the chance of seeing the creatures that live in that habitat. Students should understand when they hear you announce, “We are now in stealth mode,” this means silence is in order. Use your vision now instead of your voice.

5. Send them off, but bring them back

Sometimes, an outdoor trip involves giving children instruction and then sending them off to explore or complete an activity. To do this, you must be sure that: a.) you have their attention as you give instruction, b.) when it’s time, you can get everyone to come back to you quickly and easily, and c.) you know that everyone is back. When you send children off to find or do something, in order to bring them back to you quickly and efficiently, establish a “signal word.” As soon as they hear the word, students must stop what they are doing and return to you as quickly as it is safely possible. The word “magnet” works well. You can tell them that when they hear you say “magnet” they magically turn into pieces of metal, and you become a magnet; they will immediately become strongly “attracted” and have to return to you as quickly as they can. Finally, count your group regularly. You can pair children up to help them keep track of each other. “Do you see your buddy?” Make sure you know how many kids you are meant to have and always have that many. No more. No less.

6. Have what you need and know what you don’t

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Before you go outside, think carefully about what you are going to do and what you want to accomplish, so you know exactly what materials you are going to want to bring. When it’s time to leave the building, be sure you have everything you need gathered together and ready to go. The less materials and equipment students have to carry in their hands the better. If there are items children must have in order to do an activity, carry a backpack or, if the terrain allows, pull a wagon containing that equipment. If you plan to make trips into the field on a regular basis and there are certain pieces of equipment you want children to have each time they are outdoors, you may want to find a local business that has cloth bags with their logo on them. Ask for a donation of enough bags for every student (or groups of two or three), being sure to explain your desire to take students outside for science, and perhaps the compelling reasons for doing so. If you’re successful in getting the donation, be sure to follow up with a written thank you for the business to post. Are you short on clipboards for kids to use outside? Make clipboards out of a piece of cardboard or old personal-sized white boards with binder clips at the top and a rubber band at the bottom to secure paper to the “board.” Be sure to take plenty of extra pencils in case of loss or breakage. What you are unlikely to have when in the field is access to a bathroom. If that is the case, it is important to remind everyone (no matter what their age) to use the restroom. Making a stop at the bathrooms on your way out of the building can eliminate (no pun intended) emergencies that can bring you in from the field before you’ve accomplished your goals.

7. Bring along technology

Apps like Merlin are a great tool to help with identification of birds and other species

If you have a smartphone, you can turn it into a terrific resource with the use of one or more of the handy apps (some of which are available for free) that can help when trying to identifying unknown species and/or answering puzzling questions. (Free apps to ID: birds – Merlin; trees – VTree. Check the app store for free or Lite versions of field guides specific to your state or area.) A camera is an excellent tool to use when documenting what students are doing, capturing candid photos of them at work, “collecting” samples of what was observed, documenting unknown species for identification later, and video recording their “process.”

8. Know it’s good not to know all the answers

Nature journals can help give focus to a trip outdoors.

Don’t let a concern about not knowing the name of every plant or animal species you might see or the answers to all the possible questions kids might ask keep you inside. On the contrary, embrace the teachable moments that exist if you don’t know everything. These are priceless! Not knowing everything gives you authentic opportunities to

model for kids exactly how to find the answers. If someone asks a question to which you don’t know the answer, tell the group, “That’s a terrific question. Let’s write it down to research later.” This demonstrates to students that you’re a learner right along with them.   With some thought and careful planning, you can successfully lead groups of children outdoors safely and provide a positive and enriching experience for them and for yourself. You will be able to bring nature alive for students, and give them the authentic experiences that will start them questioning and wondering about the world around them! Happy trails! Barbara

This blog is Part 1 of a series around engaging and teaching students outside. Click here for Part 2: Creating an Outdoor Classroom and here for Part 3: Citizen Science in Your Outdoor Classroom . You can also watch our video “Nature Walks: Five Steps to Success” below. 

 

Small Steps Equal Giant Outdoor Connections

The smallest outdoor experience can have far-reaching impacts. Many of us who have pursued careers in the outdoors can point to one (or several) childhood memories that gave us a passion for nature. It may be the simplest thing, finding a neat rock, a pretty flower, or an unusual bug, something that fascinates us and makes us want to learn more.

That is what the teachers highlighted in the article below inspired in their students. What began as a simple garden or rock identification field trip turned into a lifelong connection with the outdoors.

Incorporating outdoor education into the classroom can seem a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Small experiences in the school yard, a local park, or even bringing a little bit of nature indoors with you can turn into something so much greater later on. You never know what will happen.

 

How Small Steps Can Create Outdoors Experiences In Schools

Students at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School in Missouri conduct an abiotic water quality monitoring lab at Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country.  Students conducted chemical tests of dissolved oxygen levels, phosphates, nitrates and pH to determine water health.

Original article found here. Published on KQED News.

It started with a school garden at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. The garden did so well that students built another garden. Then they added native plants, where seventh-grade students learned lessons in data collection as they counted pollinators. The students wanted more pollinators, so they added a beehive. The bees made honey, and the kids used their sweet surplus to learn about the economics of commodities, said science educator Scott McClintock, who helped build the MRH middle school science program.

But students didn’t stop there.

Next came an aquaponics lab in the basement, said McClintock, “so we had this giant tub that we were growing talapia in.”

The nitrates from the fish waste got recycled back into the garden.

All this took place at a public middle school near St. Louis that previously struggled academically. MRH Middle School has the same budget constraints that many school districts face, but they took their limited budget and directed funds toward outdoor learning. It’s an investment that pays off in the form of physically, mentally and socially healthier students. McClintock and other teachers saw students become more kind to each other outside.

Outdoor classrooms help children develop properly because they provide small risks that help kids gain confidence and good judgment, according to Sharon Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards America. Even in urban school districts, teachers can create multidisciplinary outdoor classrooms.

“Mental health and social and emotional well-being are two key areas that we believe children benefit from in a green schoolyard,” said Danks.

Teachers can also look to city and school parks as a daily resource, according to Jean Turney, an education coordinator for St. Louis-based nonprofit Forest Park Forever. Turney, a former elementary school teacher, now trains other teachers in how to use parks as a classroom.

“It’s not a field trip, but it’s more of experience,” she said. The park can become a science lab, art studio or gymnasium.

Science teachers are usually the most interested in outdoor classrooms, but math and language arts lessons can be enhanced by using outdoor spaces, said Turney. Part of it is letting go of structured lessons, to let students set their own course, “trusting that kids really do figure it out.” 

This is Pat Wilborn owner of PortFish, an aquaponics farm in Port Washington, WI. My 6th grade students were there last week for an urban farming/sustainability expedition. The water these plants grown in are a part of a closed loop system that also grows fish. Basically the plants, bacteria in the filters, and fish form a self cleaning system where the waste products of one, become the nutrients for the other. Pat can grow year round using this system using less energy, resources, and space even in the harsh winters in Wisconsin.
McClintock took his current students at Chesterfield Day School to PortFish, an aquaponics farm in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Owner Pat Wilborn shows how plants and fish can be grown in a closed-loop system. According to McClintock, “Basically the plants, bacteria in the filters, and fish form a self-cleaning system where the waste products of one become the nutrients for the other. Pat can grow year-round using this system using less energy, resources and space even in the harsh winters in Wisconsin.” (Courtesy of Scott McClintock )

 

GROWING A PROGRAM

When Maplewood-Richmond Heights was redesigned to include a garden in its space, McClintock wanted to take gardening a step further by keeping a growing list of pollinator counts so students could track those populations over the years. And the garden went beyond just counting insects and harvesting plants — his students also had an entire unit on soil food webs and microorganisms.

These kinds of projects and activities require funding, so McClintock found partners from the community to cover the bills. Missouri’s Department of Conservation provided free teacher training that included conservation curriculum. Participating teachers also received funds for trips and gear.

“They offered some amazing opportunities for teachers in terms of curriculum they designed for teaching outdoors,” said McClintock.

But that wasn’t the only place he found help. Even though he had no funding for trips, he found organizations that would help cover transportation. And when he couldn’t secure funding for a bus, he tried to bring nature to his students. At a previous school in downtown St. Louis, McClintock used a supply grant to purchase a backyard pond kit. He built the pond in the classroom and filled it with fish and crayfish he bought from the bait store.

“That was on the fourth floor of a building downtown,” he said. “While I couldn’t take my kids out, I ended up bringing nature in and that was awesome and that lasted for years.”

Those fourth-graders he taught in downtown St. Louis are now high school seniors, three of whom e-mailed him recently and told him that they were inspired to go into science because of their time in his classroom.

“The work we did with them as fourth-graders had that impact,” McClintock said.

This was my sustainability class preparing the grounds for a 1200 sq ft rain garden installation. The students designed the garden, calculated the amount of soil, researched native prairie plants, prepared the seeds using a treatment called “cold stratification” to mimic Missouri winters, delivered their proposal for the superintendent/board, and then installed the garden. 100ft long and 20ft wide. In addition to the positive effects on the watershed, the rain garden also served as a pollinator garden and used in longitudinal data collection on pollinators in our campus gardens.
Middle school students prepare the grounds for a 1200-square-foot rain garden installation. According to McClintock, “The students designed the garden, calculated the amount of soil, researched native prairie plants, prepared the seeds using a treatment called “cold stratification” to mimic Missouri winters, delivered their proposal for the superintendent/board, and then installed the garden, 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. In addition to the positive effects on the watershed, the rain garden also served as a pollinator garden and was used in longitudinal data collection on pollinators in our campus gardens.” (Courtesy of Scott McClintock)

 

START SMALL

Children have powerful tools in the form of their imagination. Even if students are just sitting in a soccer field, they can use their imagination to transform it into another space, said Janet Staal, an environmental education consultant at Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“We’ll just pretend we’re kestrels and we have to survive by getting our food differently than humans,” said Staal, who works with teachers in Grand Rapids Public Schools. One of those schools is based out of Blandford Nature Center and has most lessons in outdoor spaces. But for other city schools, Staal serves as a liaison to give hesitant teachers a starting point to outdoor learning. It doesn’t have to be an additional burden for teachers, according to Staal. Just start with a simple question: “What are you currently doing this week in your plan and what could you potentially do outdoors?”

Some other starter tips:

*If reading aloud in class, take the book outside.
*Adopt a tree on your school grounds.
*Do a study of one square yard of grass. Have your students count different plants and insects in that space.
*Ask groundskeepers to leave a patch of grass uncut. Track what grows there.

Danielle Hughes, a science teacher at Dearborn STEM Academy in Boston, managed to get science lessons out of taking her students around the neighborhood to identify rocks, or even to the grocery store, where they offered a free nutrition class. And Hughes’ school partnered with the nearby Harbor Islands to take students out for a three-day expedition where they learned about the geologic processes that formed the island. With only a short amount of repeated exposure, students quickly grew comfortable with the outdoors. On the Harbor Islands trip, some students first complained, “then by the third day they don’t want to leave,” said Hughes.

MAKE IT ROUTINE

Outdoor learning does take commitment and should become part of the daily routine.

“If an activity can be done outside, why not?” said Hughes.

Passionate teachers like Hughes are important, but part of the work of Green Schoolyards is to change the institutional requirements so outdoor learning is the norm.

“What we have in the form of our school grounds is public land that is our most used public parks and we haven’t treated them that way,” said Danks.

Greening asphalt schoolyards can help with stormwater infiltration and climate change, so those initiatives should qualify for funds used in climate mitigation.

“A green schoolyard is an ecosystem of opportunities,” said Danks. 

These places can be resources to the community after school hours as well, she added. But city planners often leave these spaces out off their maps.

Green Schoolyards provides a free guides with more than 150 examples of what teachers can do on their own playgrounds, no matter the size.

“It is something you can change incrementally over time and make better and it’s something that kids can experience every day, right outside the door, if you do it,” said Danks.

Rather than being disempowered about large-scale environmental problems, said Danks, this is something where students can look out at their asphalt schoolyard and ask: How can you make this better?

“That small-scale positive interaction can give them confidence to do bigger things when their capabilities grow,” she added. “We’re looking to empower children to be stewards of their place, of their community.”

Upcoming Workshops: Project Learning Tree

Do you want to bring the outdoors to your classroom but don’t know where to start? How about getting certified to teach an outdoor curriculum?

Workshops are held across the state for programs like Project WET, Project WILD (which also has the programs Flying WILD and WILD Aquatic), and Project Learning Tree. Many times these workshops are sponsored or hosted by an organization able to lower the cost to educators. These are interactive workshops and will take you through the curriculum as well as give you pointers on how to run the activities. Learn from others in the environmental education field and network with other Michigan teachers. These programs link environmental education to Michigan’s education standards, making these lessons relevant in a classroom setting while also providing a different way to present information to students. Your students will be learning and may not even realize it!

Interested?

There are a couple of workshops coming up in January and February for Project Learning Tree and Project WILD listed below. Contact the coordinators directly if you would like to register.

Here is a workshop for Project Learning Tree (PLT) in Kalamazoo on January 28, 2017.

pltflier

 

The second workshop doesn’t have a fancy flyer, but here is their information:

Project Learning Tree & Project WILD Training – Early Learning

When: Saturday, February 11, 2017; 9am – 4pm

Where: Sterling Heights Nature Center, 42700 Utica Road, Sterling Heights, 48314

Cost: $60 (covers cost of books, money due day of workshop)

Description: In cooperation with the Michigan DNR, the Nature Center will be hosting, “PLT & Project WILD-Growing Up WILD” Early Childhood curriculum seminars. Please bring your “brown bag” lunch. Healthy snacks will be provided throughout the day. Please call the Nature Center to register at 586-446-2710.

 

We will make sure to keep the blog up to date with any others we learn of. Heard of a workshop that you want to share? Feel free to post it in the comments.

 

Outdoor Classroom Day!

outdoor-classroom-day2

Have you ever heard of Outdoor Classroom Day?

We hadn’t until recently, but we’re glad this program is around. More and more programs are popping up to get classrooms outside, this one just happens to be global. An international day dedicated to outdoor classes. How cool is that? Plus, this day falls in autumn, a great time of year in Michigan to get outside.

From the Outdoor Classroom Day About page:

“Outdoor Classroom Day is a GLOBAL campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play! Why? Simply because although teachers and parents know that spending time outdoors is important, sometimes it is squeezed out of the school day by all the other competing demands.

Anyone who has seen the effect of taking children outdoors to learn and play knows how powerful such experiences can be. Play is essential for children’s healthy development, which means it’s an essential part of every day. Learning outdoors, or ‘learning by doing,’ creates lasting memories, helps build a greater awareness of the environment, provides more opportunities to think independently, and gets children feeling challenged and excited by learning.”

outdoor-classroom-dayThe official Outdoor Classroom Day website has tons of resources, activities, and lesson plans to help you out. You can even get your school listed on a global map showing everyone who is participating.

Anyone can participate, formal school or not. So mark your calendars for Thursday, October 6 and get your kids outside!

Schools Get the OK to Take Their Classrooms Outside

The following press release which was posted in December 2015 marks a great stride forward for environmental education. There has finally been federal recognition of the importance of taking children outdoors. The No Child Left Inside bill (also known as the Reed-Sarbanes bill) gives schools the flexibility to strengthen environmental education programs. This is a huge win given how test and performance-driven academic standards have pushed the direction of education in this country.  It’s good to see that things may be changing a bit for the better. That this mindset may not always exist and that we can give future generations of students a greater range of education programs that will create more environmentally-aware adults.

 

Capture

12/09/2015 —

New K-12 education law empowers states and schools & includes ‘No Child Left Inside’ provision to strengthen environmental education and outdoor learning

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congress passed a new K-12 education law that empowers schools, promises more flexibility for states, and reduces the reliance on high-stakes testing in public schools while maintaining strong oversight of student achievement.

Included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan bill that replaces the widely-criticized No Child Left Behind Act, is a key provision co-authored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) that will strengthen environmental education programs in schools across the country.

The Reed-Sarbanes bill known as the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act authorizes funding to help states create environmental education plans and support outdoor learning programs and integrates environmental literacy activities into other key programs.  The Every Student Succeeds Act will allow school districts to integrate environmental education into their programs for well-rounded education as well as their afterschool programs.  The measure will support environmental education and hands-on, field-based learning experiences in participating schools nationwide.

Reed and Sarbanes have been working together since 2007 to pass NCLI to help states and schools build environmental literacy programs, strengthen teacher training, and provide competitive grants to allow schools and non-profits to pay for quality outdoor education programs.

Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows that children who are allowed to get outdoors during the school day are more attentive in class and better off socially and physically.

“Environmental education can have a positive impact on kids’ health, academic achievement, and understanding of the natural world.  This bill represents a major step forward, giving schools new opportunities to engage students through environmental education,” said Senator Reed.  “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 new law will free up critical resources for environmental education to inspire the next generation of scientists and conservationists.  It’s a smart investment in our children and their future.”

“ESSA is a tremendous victory for advocates of environmental education who’ve fought long and hard to expand outdoor, hands-on learning programs,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Numerous studies show the positive effect of experiential outdoor learning on student development and academic achievement. And if we can better connect youth with the outdoors, then we can help inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for passing a comprehensive education reform package that has immense benefits for students, teachers and schools across the country.”

NCLI would provide federal grant funding for teachers who design and implement environmental education programs in, and importantly, outside of the classroom. By encouraging new environmental curricula, the bill would also cultivate partnerships and strengthen relationships between school districts, colleges, environmental nonprofits, parks and other community-based organizations.

NCLI was backed by a strong, grassroots coalition of hundreds of community groups nationwide.  At the direction of the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA) and in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Rhode Island was among the first states in the nation to fully develop an Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP), opening the door for potential federal funding that will help to equip teachers with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to integrate critical environmental and science learning into their curricula.

ESSA has already been approved in the U.S. House of Representatives and now that it has passed the full U.S. Senate today by a vote of it will be sent to the President’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.

 -end-