EDUCATION – Schools, where children spend a significant amount of their time, have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect children with nature. Contact with nature has proven educational and developmental benefits. Historically, schools have planned field trips and arranged for school outreach programs, and schoolyards are often the nearest green spaces in neighborhood. Increasingly across Ohio, schools are being used as Community Learning Centers, making their facilities accessible to the community beyond the school day, seven days a week. This makes them even more valuable as “nearby nature” locations. With 55% of children under the age of six in child care centers, pre-schools and child care centers also play an important role in the effort to reconnect children with nature:
Strategy #1: Adopt a statewide Environmental Literacy Plan.
An Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) for Ohio is currently under development with input from an Advisory Group representing the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Education Council of Ohio, the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association and the Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives. The ELP contains recommendations for regular outdoor learning experiences for students pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The Advisory Group is using a strategic process to develop a plan that also includes goals and actions related to outdoor family recreation and education opportunities, as well as a focus on environmental careers. Once implemented, the Environmental Literacy Plan will allow Ohio to take swift advantage of federal funds available under the No Child Left Inside legislation, one of the key elements of the pending Elementary and Secondary Education Act.