Bill to fund environmental education
Sept. 26 2008
WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives Thursday passed an environmental education bill with a name familiar to Connecticut residents.
The No Child Left Inside Act would allocate $100 million for state grants promoting environmental literacy, outdoor education, and active living in both classrooms and community spaces.
The program is a response to No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s education reform package, according to the legislation. Critics say Bush’s plan emphasizes math and reading test scores at the expense of science and community-based learning.
The bill includes an amendment by Rep. Joe Courtney’s, 2nd district, which highlights the importance of incorporating existing state and local resources, such as parks and recreation services, into environmental programs. This addition would make the federal program complement Connecticut’s version of No Child Left Inside, implemented in 2005 by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, whose project Courtney praised on the House floor.
“This is completely consistent with efforts going on in Connecticut that are on exactly the same path,” Courtney said in an interview. “We want environmental education to take place in the environment.”
While the state program has an educational component, it is primarily concerned with “reconnecting families and young people with the outdoors” by showcasing the state’s parks, according to Dennis Schain, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the program.
Unlike the proposed federal program, the state version does not include grants to schools and community organizations. Officials at New London Public Schools said they looked forward to the possibility of receiving additional resources to support the school’s environmental curriculum.
The President’s controversial education plan, introduced in 2002, had left the district concerned that “science and community-based learning was being neglected,” said Stephanie Morton, the school’s environmental program coordinator.
At elementary and middle schools in the district students maintain fruit and vegetable gardens, participate in youth conferences on topics such as recycling, and enjoy hands-on learning with the University of Connecticut’s Project Oceanology in Groton, according to superintendent Chris Clouet.
“We have strong environmental roots in New London,” Clouet said.
Courtney said he believes environmental education is ultimately about preserving science’s role in solving today’s climate and energy challenges.
“This is not all feel good stuff,” Courtney said. “We as a country really need to pull out the stops in terms of trying to create interest in the sciences as young as possible.”
The legislation also must be passed by the Senate before the end of the year in order to become law.