Cumberland Times-News

June 27, 2008

U.S. bill proposes funding for outdoor education

Jennifer Raley

CUMBERLAND — Environmental education efforts could expand in classrooms across the nation as a result of the No Child Left Inside bill.

The bill, supported by more than 360 environmental, education and public health groups, would set up grant funding for teacher training, expand outdoor learning opportunities inside and outside of school, and encourage states to develop environmental literacy plans, according to Tom Waldron, spokesman for the No Child Left Inside Coalition.

“The idea is growing in popularity — people are really excited about it — every day we have more groups wanting to join,” said Waldron, who is based in Baltimore.

The No Child Left Inside Act, which was recently passed by the House Education Committee, was introduced by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes. Waldron is hopeful that the bill will pass through the House by early July.

The bill would not be a mandate; instead, it would provide expanded environmental education opportunities in school systems throughout the nation, according to Waldron.

“It would provide teachers with tools for high-quality lessons,” said Waldron. The resources would not just be for science teachers. “All subjects can be taught using the environment as a theme.”

Allegany County Superintendent of Schools Bill AuMiller is supportive of environmental education.

“In Allegany we are ahead of the curve; we just reinstated our outdoor education programs for fifth- and sixth-graders, and the teachers and students are very excited about it,” said AuMiller. “No one would argue against the importance of environmental education. As a school system, we wholeheartedly embrace it (the No Child Left Inside bill), provided it’s accompanied by the requisite funding.”

Another benefit of the bill, according to Waldron, is getting students outside.

“The No Child Left Inside Act would dramatically improve the ability of schools around the country to teach young people about the environment, and we applaud the House Education and Labor Committee for moving it forward,” said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a leading member of the NCLI Coalition. “It is critically important to find new ways to get young people outside to explore and learn about the natural world, and this legislation will help do that.”

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the National Education Association are among the supporters of the bill.

Contact Jennifer Raley at jraley@times-news.com.