The No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act was reintroduced Thursday, April 7, 2022. The legislation was authored by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) to expand and strengthen hands-on, environmental and outdoor learning opportunities for elementary and secondary school students around the country. Mr. Reed was joined by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as co-sponsors introducing the Senate bill today, while Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Langevin, Cicilline, Connolly, Perlmutter, and Sires are co-sponsoring the House version. We are grateful for their leadership!

NCLI would provide grants for states and school districts to integrate environmental education, including climate change education, into their core academic programs. It would support critical teacher professional learning and incentivize schools to use school facilities and school grounds for environmental and outdoor learning. The bill also includes a national pilot program for outdoor school programs.

Read a full statement from the North American Association for Environmental Education here. You can also download a fact sheet, sign up to receive NCLI updates and action alerts, and add your organization to this list of supporters.

The Senate Press Release is pasted below.

CONTACT: Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642; Annie Clark (Collins), 202-224-2523

Reed, Collins, Merkley Lead Bipartisan Effort to Boost Outdoor Education & Connect More Kids to Nature

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to reconnect more kids with nature, improve their mental and physical health, and address critical environmental challenges, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today introduced legislation to strengthen and expand environmental education in America’s classrooms. 

The No Child Left Inside Act (S. 4041) will help bring locally developed, high-quality environmental education programs to more schools nationwide by authorizing up to $150 million annually in federal assistance to states to develop and implement environmental literacy plans.  The bill would also promote professional development for teachers on how to integrate environmental literacy and field experiences into their instruction and establish competitive grants to help schools partner with colleges and non-profits to expand research-based practices in outdoor education.

Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD).

Recent studies show that kids today are spending less time outside than previous generations and more time on screens.  Yet the benefits of time outdoors and connecting with nature are numerous, including:

•           Better school performance

•           Increased health and fitness and improved cognitive function and more creativity

•           Less depression, stress, and hyperactivity

•           More exposure to natural light and lots of outdoor physical activity improves children’s natural sleep rhythms

•           A longer life span and healthier adult life

“Environmental education has so many positive impacts, from reconnecting kids with nature to health benefits, to boosting math and science test scores.  The No Child Left Inside Act will help more states provide effective environmental education programs and integrate environmental literacy and outdoor learning into other core subjects.  Ensuring students understand the natural world prepares them to navigate environmental challenges that impact our communities.  Our bipartisan bill will help more kids get outside and ensure they are learning about the world around them so they can take better care of it and each other,” said Senator Reed.  “Environmental awareness should be second nature for our young people and protecting the environment is crucial to future economic growth.”

“Maine’s abundant natural resources and pristine environment make it an idyllic place for children to grow up,” said Senator Collins.  “From our verdant western mountains to our rugged coastline and all of the lakes, ponds, forests, and rivers in between, there are endless opportunities for young people to explore and enjoy the outdoors.  Our bipartisan legislation would provide grants to states to integrate environmental education into their core curriculum and also establish an outdoor education pilot program so that students can learn more about the native flora, fauna, and ecosystems in their own backyard and be inspired with a lifelong love of nature.”

“Just as Oregon’s shores, forests and deserts have long been woven into the spirit of our state, America’s incredible public lands have made invaluable contributions to every region of our country,” said Senator Merkley. “It is our responsibility to be good stewards of those treasures—and to make sure our kids have the knowledge and resources to continue that stewardship—so these treasures can be enjoyed by future generations of hikers, hunters, fishermen, and other outdoor recreationists. I look forward to working with Senators Reed and Collins in ensuring our kids and future climate defenders have the education, experience, and knowledge of the world around them to protect Oregon’s—and America’s—great outdoor spaces for years to come.”

The No Child Left Inside Act will help provide federal grants to states for partnerships between school districts and parks, natural resource management agencies, educator preparation programs, and museums or other organizations with expertise in engaging young people with real world examples of environmental and scientific concepts.  The legislation also establishes a pilot program for outdoor school education programs that offer intensive, hands-on learning experiences, such as residential programs and summer camps.

The No Child Left Inside Act will also help coordinate federal efforts on environmental education.  It requires the Secretary of Education to establish an environmental literacy advisory panel to coordinate and report on environmental literacy activities across federal agencies.  It will also provide easy access to environmental education resources through the Department of Education’s website.

When children explore the outdoors, it increases their physical activity level and may also help boost their self-esteem and improve their academic performance in other subjects.  A study by the American Institutes for Research shows that children who participated in outdoor education programs significantly raised their science test scores by 27 percent, as measured by a pre- and post-survey administered immediately upon their return to school.

The No Child Left Inside Act has the support of nearly 100 organizations, representing educators, parks, museums, environmental organizations, and community-based organizations at the national, state, and local levels, including:

American Federation of Teachers
Association of Nature Center Administrators
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Children & Nature Network
Choose Outdoors
Earth Force
Global Choices
Green Guardians
Institute for Humane Education
Kwauk and Associates
Latino Outdoors
National Education Association
National Science Teaching Association
National Wildlife Federation
North American Association for Environmental Education
Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)
Preston-Werner Ventures
REI Co-op
Sierra Club
Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Project Learning Tree
The Center for Green Schools at USGBC
The Wild Center
Wilderness Inquiry
Buffalo Audubon Society, Inc.
Cape Cod Hill School
Cathance River Education Alliance
Central Adventure Club
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute
Cincinnati Nature Center
Clear Lake Education Center
Denali Education Center
Dunes Learning Center
Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
EmpowerEd DC
Environmental Education Alliance (Georgia)
Environmental Educators of North Carolina
Environmental Living and Learning for Maine Students
Friends of Acadia
Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed
Friends of Outdoor School
Gray Family Foundation
Great Smoky Mountains institute at Tremont
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
HealthReach Community Health Centers of Maine
Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Irvine Nature Center
Leaps of Imagination
Leslie Science & Nature Center
Maine Association for the Education of Young Children
Maine Environmental Education Association
Maine Public Health Association
Maine Youth for Climate Justice
Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education
Mississippi Delta Nature and Learning Center
Mount St. Helens Institute
Nature Based Education Consortium
Nature at the Confluence
New Hampshire Environmental Educators
Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center
Pajarito Environmental Education Center
Pfeiffer Nature Center
Potomac Valley Audubon Society, Inc.
Rhode Island Environmental Education Association
Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition, Inc.
Schenck High School Outdoor Education
Seven Ponds Nature Center
Severson Dells Nature Center
Shaker Lakes Regional Nature Center
Springbrook Nature Center
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
Stokes Nature Center
Teens to Trails
The Ecology School
The Education Action Forum of Maine
The Source School
Trout Lake Nature Center
Tubac Nature Center
Washington Trails Association
White Pine Programs
Wild Bear Nature Center
Wittenbach Wege Center – Lowell Area Schools
Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center
Wyoming Alliance for Environmental Education


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