With attendance at our National Parks dropping significantly while children increasingly choose video games and internet chat forums over the great outdoors it may come as no surprise to Treehuggers everywhere that something needs to be done. That’s probably why Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) has introduced the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 (H.R. 3036) to be put inside the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)… As anyone inside of education can tell you, NCLB has serious drawbacks, just one of which may be that it’s requirements are encouraging teachers and schools to move away from engaging kids outdoors and leaving them far behind when it comes to an understanding of environmental issues. But this piece of legislation aims to change all that by providing incentives for state educational agencies to create a State Environmental Literacy Plan for integrating environmental education into their K-12 curriculum to ensure that graduates are environmentally literate. One of the biggest flaws in NCLB itself has been that it doesn’t provide the funding to implement its requirements, so the No Child Left Inside Act also aims to provide funding to help states, schools systems, and environmental education partners to actually implement their State Environmental Literacy Plan after they create it. And recognizing that teachers need training and increased personal awareness themselves it will also work to create opportunities to improve teacher training, including field-based training in environmental education and connecting children with nature. All of which sounds great to me. Hopefully more members of congress will see the light and jump on the bandwagon. If implemented it would certainly be a terrific step in the right direction, and not too unlike the one taken in parts of Canada recently to integrate environmental literacy across the curriculum from K-12 as well.
To turbo-charge all of this I’d like to make one simple suggestion…. Include some measure to help kids at every stage of the educational process understand what’s going on today in the world around them across every discipline. It’s just too easy for kids in the first world to remain in a sort of gilded cocoon, while blissfully unaware of realities across the world that will have direct implications on their future lifestyle… Of course, they may not choose to incorporate that information into their MySpace page, but if teachers and parents consistently and genuinely take the time to make them aware of what’s happening and how it impacts them personally I cannot see how it won’t lead them to make better choices for themselves and for the planet.