As environmental educators we know that there are profound benefits to the simple act of getting children outdoors. But increasingly research is showing that as kids become disconnected from nature, the ramifications are profound – dramatic increases in childhood obesity, diabetes and attention deficit disorder.
Over the past 4 years, based in part on Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Wood: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, there has been a broad movement across the country to find ways to get kids to turn off their electronic devices and get outside to explore and learn about their natural world (i.e. No Child Left Inside Coalition, Children and Nature Network.) I think that the exciting aspect of this movement is the diverse groups of supporters--hunters and fishers, conservationists, environmentalists, manufacturers of outdoor gear and more--who are working together to ensure that the places they love continue to be appreciated.
Another exciting vehicle that could help get kids appreciate nature is pending in Congress – the No Child Left Inside Act, which is scheduled to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives in September. This legislation, which passed the House Education and Labor Committee with bipartisan support, would get kids outside during the school day by providing new funding for environmental education. The funds would ensure that teachers are trained in providing high-quality, engaging lessons and would expand environmental learning opportunities here in Utah and around the country.
The Act does not create any new mandates on our schools. Instead, it would create incentives to states to create environmental literacy plans ensuring that all of our students have a solid understanding of the environment. For more information visit the No Child Left Inside Coalition.