by Kim Ethridge
My daughter and I recently drove out to my son's Boy Scout camp in Dublin, MD. Once off I-95, the drive becomes quite relaxing and scenic. After passing several wide open fields, my daughter said, "I like it out here. There's lots of room to run around." Then she continued, "Mom, I'm really an outdoors type. I'd rather spend my time outside than inside...except when there's a computer or game console around."
We hear the statistics a lot. The most recent one I heard was that most kids spend an average of six hours in front of a screen of some kind and four minutes outside. They call it "environmental deficit disorder." I've read articles by the dozens over the past few months about the importance of getting our children outside.
But there's more to it than just getting kids to play in the park or the backyard. Major environmental challenges confront our nation and the world, and our children's generation will—must—play a major role in finding solutions. To do that, and do it effectively, they will need to be environmentally literate. The Environmental Literacy Council defines this as having "a fundamental understanding of the systems of the world, both living and non-living, along with the analytical skills needed to weigh scientific evidence and policy choices." Our children aren't going to breathe that knowledge in as they run through the local park. They need to be taught.
On Monday, Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-3) joined the No Child Left Inside Coalition on the beach at CBF's Merrill Center to announce H.R. 3036, the No Child Left Inside Act, which would give environmental education its fair share of attention in the nation's schools and would require states to develop goals for "environmental literacy" of graduates, and, yes, provide grant money for education and teacher training.
I know the impacts the current "No Child Left Behind" act has had on our teachers—not all of them good. I have seen many of my own children's teachers frustrated with "teaching to the tests." The neat thing about environmental literacy is that it can be incorporated into the math and reading curriculums. Many examples already exist, like the Chesapeake Bay Program's "Bay B C's: A multidisciplinary approach to teaching about the Chesapeake Bay." (download the PDF)
What do you think?