May 14, 2009

CARDIN JOINS BALTIMORE STUDENTS, CATS AND DOGS IN SUPPORT FOR NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE

WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to strengthen environmental education in America's classrooms and reconnect more kids with nature, U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), , and U.S. Representative John P. Sarbanes (D-MD) today joined with students from the Green School in Baltimore, conservationists from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and animal ambassadors from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, to unveil the No Child Left Inside Act of 2009.  This bipartisan legislation would authorize $500 million over five years for school systems around the country to build environmental literacy, strengthen teacher training, and provide competitive grants to help schools and non-profits pay for outdoor education.

Studies show that when you get kids outside and teach them about nature, it helps them raise achievement in other subjects and has important health benefits too.  Yet the amount of time children now spend outdoors has declined 50 percent in the past 20 years.  Today, many schools are being forced to scale back environmental programs and curtail outdoor activities. 

"Environmental literacy is essential for life in the 21st century.  No Child Left Inside will provide students with the knowledge and experience they need to grow up healthy in a sustainable world with strong respect, concern and understanding of the eco-system in which they live," said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. "This bill represents a critical investment in the future of our nation and the children who will be responsible for answering the most critical questions of our time."

"We must educate our youth to be environmental stewards and grow the next generation of scientists and innovators to solve our energy and environmental challenges," said Congressman John Sarbanes. "By preparing the next generation to meet these challenges, we will accomplish environmental, economic and national security policy objectives in one fell swoop."

"The National Aquarium and the other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have seen children transformed by experiencing nature. These connections pique kids' curiosity and create lasting enthusiasm for this world they will inherit. We know that hands-on outdoor education works because we see our kids coming back each year wanting to learn more," stated David M. Pittenger, Executive Director of the National Aquarium Institute. 

The No Child Left Inside Act authorizes new funding for states to provide high-quality, environmental instruction. Funds would support outdoor learning activities both at school and in non-formal environmental education centers, teacher professional development, and the creation of state environmental literacy plans.

There are currently 13 cosponsors of the Senate bill (S. 866), authored by Reed: Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Robert Menendez, Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). There are currently 53 cosponsors of the House bill (H.R. 2054), authored by Sarbanes.

The legislation has key backing from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Coalition, a broad-based organization which includes 1,300 organizational members from across the United States-representing more than 50 million individuals.  For more information about the NCLI Coalition, visit: www.NCLICoalition.org.