Indianapolis, IN (July 15, 2011) — On Thursday, July 14, the bipartisan No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI) was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-3)  and into the Senate by Sen. Jack Reed (RI)  and Sen. Mark Kirk (IL). This critical legislation includes the creation of competitive matching grants for programs that partner schools and community organizations (such as camps) to improve and support environmental education. It would also require states to develop environmental literacy plans, and would create competitive sub-grants for programs that partner schools with community organizations (such as camps) to develop more rigorous environmental education curricula and improve teacher training in this area. The bill is designed to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
For 150 years, American camps have positively impacted the development of millions of children and youth. “For years, camps have worked with traditional educational programs to help close the environmental literacy gap, and provide children with hands-on, first-person experiences with nature,” said Peg Smith, chief executive officer for the American Camp Association (ACA).
Studies consistently reveal that people in the U.S., specifically children, suffer from a tremendous “environmental literacy” gap that is increasing rather than decreasing (Charles & Louv, 2009). In addition, today’s youth are experiencing less free and unstructured outdoor playtime in nature than previous generations; reduced mobility and less range for exploration, including reduction in walking or riding a bike to school; a growing fear of strangers and nature itself; and a dramatic rise in obesity, as well as vitamin D deficiency and other health issues that may in part be related to low levels of outdoor activity and a sedentary lifestyle.
ACA understands that direct experience in nature is an important part of a child’s intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical development, and that experience in alternative and expanded learning environments (such as the out-of-doors) provides gains in both cognitive and affective achievement. In addition, time spent in nature can mitigate some health threats, reduce stress, and increase aspects of learning such as concentration, memory, and overall behavior.
ACA supports NCLI and believes that it is time to recognize that alternative and expanded learning environments, such as those experienced outside at camp, can have significant impacts on academic achievement — especially in the areas of reading, math, and science. Camps have partnered with schools for 150 years to provide environmental education programming, and by amending ESEA, NCLI encourages and helps facilitate this critical aspect of a child’s education.
For more information on No Child Left Inside, visit ACA’s Web site at www.acacamps.org/publicpolicy/NCLI .
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org .
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