Pushing Forward For Outdoor Education

By: Tom Ackerman
AS A RESULT of the testing mania that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has driven across the country, fewer and fewer students are allowed to investigate the natural world as part of their formal education.

Instead, they are subjected to two and three extra sessions of math and reading, and spend educational time learning how to take tests. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is leading a national coalition to reverse this trend and give every student and teacher the opportunity to “Learn Outside!”

Over the last year CBF has built a network of over 110 partners including the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Foundation, Audubon Society, Nation Education Association, WindStar Wildlife Institute and others.

Each coalition partner believes that every child needs to be educated about the environment in order to make sound personal decisions and to grow into a responsible citizen. The only way to guarantee this outcome is to amend the controversial No Child Left Behind law, which has unintentionally reduced the number of schools and students who can participate in valuable environmental education experiences like those created by CBF educators throughout the watershed.

The hard work of CBF and its NCLI coalition partners have led to level of success that some thought impossible. Two NCLI bills have been introduced in the House and Senate: HR 3036 was introduced in the House by MD representative John Sarbanes, and S 1981 was sponsored in the Senate by Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

An active campaign on key Congressional committees and across the nation has resulted in bi-partisan co-sponsor ship of each bill, and environmental education was included in Chairman Miller’s draft version of NCLB – the only new program to be included.

We are winning, but the road ahead is long. We need your continued action and support as we attempt to persuade more members of Congress to co-sponsor the NCLI Acts, and as we look toward debate on the floor of the House and Senate.

If you want to learn more about our efforts or what you can do to make sure that every student learns to treasure the environment, visit www.cbf.org/eenclb.