Friday, May 1, 2009

Congress Identifies State Natural Resource Agencies in the No Child Left Inside Act of 2009

Senator Jack Reed (RI) and Representative John Sarbanes (MD) introduced Senate and House versions of the “No Child Left Inside Act” legislation on Earth Day, April 22.

“Climate change, conservation of precious natural resources, maintaining clean air and water and other environmental challenges are pressing and complex issues that influence human health, economic development, and national security,” said Senator Reed in his introductory comments. “Environmental education will help ensure that our nation's children have the knowledge and skills necessary to address these critical issues. In short, the environment should be an important part of the curriculum in our schools.”

The legislation will authorize $100 million over each of the next five years for developing school curricula for outdoor learning activities, teacher professional development and the creation of state environmental literacy plans.

“It's great to see that the state environmental literacy plans are to be developed by state education departments in consultation with state environmental agencies and state natural resources agencies, and to see that state natural resources agencies will be eligible to receive sub grants,” observed Dr. Judy Silverberg, chair of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Conservation Education Strategy Working Group and Wildlife Education Programs Supervisor with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “The good news for state fish and wildlife agencies is that state natural resource agencies are specifically identified in both House and Senate versions. ”

State natural resource agencies were not included in an earlier version of the bill passed by the House last year.

The 2009 legislation requires state educational agencies to develop environmental literacy plans “in consultation with state environmental agencies and state natural resource agencies.” State natural resource agencies also will be eligible for sub grants to provide professional development to teachers and for environmental education capacity building, in partnership with state educational agencies.

The Association and its member state fish and wildlife agencies are well positioned to take advantage of the new legislation. The Association’s Conservation Education (CE) Strategy has developed the K-12 Conservation Education Scope and Sequence, which outlines a set of expectations of what students should know and be able to do regarding natural resources conservation for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

The CE Strategy also has developed a Field Investigations Guide, which shows teachers how to conduct field investigations based on the research methods used by fish and wildlife agency biologists. A working session at the Association's recent Conservation Education Conference in Arkansas focused on environmental literacy plans. Future actions of the CE Strategy include coordinating with state education department science supervisors to incorporate core concepts into state science standards and to add social studies, technology and math correlations to the Field Investigations Guide.

The Association is a member of the No Child Left Inside Coalition, a group of about 1,300 organizations to advocate for greater outdoor educational and recreational activity in schools.