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Collins, Reed Introduce No Child Left Inside Act to Help More Students Get Outdoors & Grow

U.S. Senators say NCLI would provide educational, environmental, economic, health & and social benefits

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have introduced the No Child Left Inside Act (S. 1239), a bipartisan bill that would help bring locally developed, high-quality environmental education programs to more schools nationwide. Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD).

The legislation would 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. It would also establish 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 seeks to coordinate federal efforts on environmental education by requiring the Secretary of Education to establish an environmental literacy advisory panel to coordinate and report on environmental literacy activities across federal agencies. It would also provide easy access to environmental education resources through the Department of Education’s website.

“Maine’s abundant natural resources and pristine environment make it an idyllic place for children to grow up,” said Senator Collins. “From our 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 help states integrate environmental education into their core curriculum and 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.”

“We hear all the time from parents who are worried about screen time and social media’s downsides.  This bill addresses those concerns by getting kids outside, off their screens, and learning more about the natural world around them.  High-quality 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,” said Senator Reed, who first introduced the bill in 2007 and successfully included an NCLI provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 that helped states integrate environmental learning into the regular curriculum and in afterschool programs.  “Every child, regardless of their zip code, should have access to environmental education opportunities.  Outdoor learning helps teach kids so many lessons, from academic enrichment to character development.  This is a smart investment in helping kids grow and achieve their full potential.”

“Environmental literacy skills are crucial to our environmental, economic and public health future,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Expanding these programs will connect more students to the world around them and help them succeed in all areas of life. Now that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act have made historic investments in combatting climate change and creating clean energy jobs, it’s essential that we also bolster the programs that will help the next generation understand the urgency of protecting our environment and give them the opportunity to explore their passions. Environmental education programs have proven track records in Maryland, and we must continue working to bring the same opportunities to students across the country.”

"We fully support the No Child Left Inside Legislation and are grateful to Senator Collins for co-sponsoring the bill. As a national leader in environmental and outdoor learning, the additional funding from this bill could ensure Maine students can reap the benefits of engaging outdoors,” said Amara Ifeji, Director of Policy at the Maine Environmental Education Association. “NCLI's focus on educator support, community partnership, and outdoor school experiences will contribute to youth's mental and physical wellness, increase test scores, and develop students' problem-solving, leadership, and self-confidence skills to prepare them for the workforce."

The positive effects of outdoor learning on child development has been well documented. We know in the early years that children can gain self-esteem, independence, and improve social skills while also benefitting their physical and cognitive growth when allowed to explore their natural outdoor environments,” said Heather Marden, Co-Executive Director at the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. “We thank Senator Collins for supporting the No Child Left Inside Act and the expansion of outdoor learning opportunities for children of all ages.”

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.