Yesterday, the No Child Left Inside Act, a groundbreaking bill that would devote more federal dollars towards environmental education, passed in the House of Representatives. Huzzah!

If you’ve never heard of the legislation before this, here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed. Sponsored by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), the act would provide $500 million in federal dollars over the next five years to enhance environmental education programs in public elementary, middle, and high schools. Organizers of the bill hope it will counteract some of the damage done by the No Child Left Behind Act. From NCLI's website:

"The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is contributing to an increasing environmental literacy gap by reducing the amount of environmental education taking place in K-12 classrooms. Its emphasis on testing for core subjects is causing many administrators to eliminate environmental education in favor of investing more resources in math and language arts, severely limiting instructional time for science and social studies, the traditional subjects in which EE is taught."

At a time when environmental issues are a ginormous deal—which will undoubtedly still be the case when today’s kids enter the workforce years later—children can use as much Nature 101 as they can get.

The millions of dollars allocated under the Act would go towards a number of environment-centric programs. From the  NCLI's website:

"If Congress adopts our proposals a substantially strengthened NCLB will include: Funding to train teachers to deliver high quality Environmental Education and utilize the local environmental as an extension of the classroom; incentives for states to develop State Environmental Literacy Plans to insure that every student is prepared to understand the environmental challenges of the future; encouragement for teachers, administrators, and school systems to make time and resources available for environmental education for all students; Environmental Education will be integrated across core subject areas."

Sounds good to us—and likely will sound good to the kiddies, too. Hmm, what is a more exciting and engaging lesson plan: dull practice exams for standardized tests, or canoeing on the Chesepeake Bay to learn about river environments? With any luck, the new prez will sign this bill into law, and children will have more chances to go outside and appreciate nature instead of standing in front of a Wii.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in September 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008