Education Strategy 8: Green Jobs

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 #8: Increase student and public awareness of green jobs as a career option.

The Ohio Environmental Literacy Plan includes a strategy to support environmental career awareness by developing a mentoring program that links environmental professionals with students and by assuring that service learning requirements and opportunities include environmental components.

Education Strategy 7: Required Recess

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 #7: Require at least 20 minutes of daily unstructured recess.

Recent attempts to require recess in schools via the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children legislation passed this year in Ohio met with failure. Groups representing teachers and school boards were successful in removing that provision from the bill, citing the need for more academic time. Because the focus of the bill was on childhood obesity, educators also felt that schools should not be responsible for solving social problems. The first step in successfully implementing this strategy is to show that recess is helpful to academic performance. There are studies indicating that recess improves classroom behavior. Another study indicates that there is a positive connection between physical activity, concentration and memory. More research is needed on this topic, but most adults who participate in day-long meetings would agree that a break for physical activity increases the ability to concentrate. The Environmental Literacy Plan will include strategies to promote recess and physical education.

Education Strategy 6: Prepare Educators

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 #6: Prepare formal and non-formal educators to incorporate environmental education into their teaching throughout their career.

The Environmental Literacy Plan under development in Ohio recommends pre-service training and on-going professional development for both formal and non-formal educators. The Plan includes strategies to encourage partnerships with experienced providers of environmental education programs that will translate environmental concepts into outdoor experiences. It also addresses the need to build confidence in teachers and addresses working with diverse audiences.

“Overwhelmingly, principals reported that recess has a strong positive impact on academic achievement. Students listened better and were more focused after recess. And principals widely agreed that recess positively impacts social development and well-being.”
– Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Report on “The State of Play” 2010

Education Strategy 5: School Recognition Program

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 #5: Create a school recognition program for schools that incorporate environmental education in the curriculum, model best practices on the campus, and address community problems.

Having a school recognition program would not only serve to congratulate exemplary schools, but it would make parents and the community aware of those schools which are successfully integrating nature-based education and opportunities to experience nature into the school day, after-school programs and school-based community activities. The Environmental Literacy Plan currently under development in Ohio recommends incorporating field- and career-based programs that contribute to healthy lifestyles through environmental stewardship, outdoor recreation and sound nutrition into the curriculum. Establishing a recognition program would recognize those schools which successfully implement the recommendations. Projects which are selected for grants from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF) administered by the Ohio EPA could serve as exemplary models.

Nationally, there is work underway to create a “Green Ribbon Schools” award, using the existing Blue Ribbon Schools, which recognizes outstanding academic achievement, as a model. It would be an expansion of the Green Ribbon Schools (GRS) program developed by the Texas Children in Nature Coalition to promote healthy living for students, parents, teachers and communities. Green Ribbon Schools promote:

  • Environmentally-friendly campuses
  • Outdoor physical activity and nature play
  • Nature education

Education Strategy 4: Environmental Education Grants

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 #4: Strengthen environmental education grant funds to support outdoor learning experiences.

The Ohio EPA administers the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF), which provides grants for projects such as outdoor learning areas at schools, educational programs in parks and nature centers and water quality monitoring supplies and training for students, teachers and citizen volunteers. The OEEF awards grants ranging from $500 to $50,000.

  • From Weapons To Wetlands:
    For more than 15 years, members from Ohio EPA’s Dayton office have worked with elementary through high school students to plant wetland vegetation, as well as monitor how man-made wetlands are helping to reclaim the Fernald Preserve, a former nuclear production facility.

Education Strategy 3: Outdoor & Community-Based Learning

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 #3: Encourage teaching and learning in outdoors and community-based settings.

The Environmental Literacy Plan contains objectives to assure that students can

  • Access and assess information
  • Identify, research, analyze and address environmental challenges
  • Understand key environmental literacy concepts in science courses

While these objectives could be accomplished inside the classroom, the learning experience would be much more powerful when done in a real-world, community-based setting. Outdoor settings also increase the potential for physical activity, thereby improving student health. Community-based experiences increase the potential for additional mentoring, as well as recognition of and appreciation for helpful community services which are available without commensurate increases in cost for schools, since much of the programming is funded by the community organizations providing the services and not through public funds or tuition.

In the case of pre-school and early childhood settings, it may be necessary to educate parents about the importance of unstructured outdoor play to a child’s cognitive development. According to Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, FAAP, speaking on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Parents receive message from a variety of sources stating that good parents actively build every skill and aptitude their child might need from the earliest ages, and that play may, in fact, be a waste of time. ”

Education Strategy 2: Outdoor Learning Environments

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 #2: Encourage outdoor learning environments such as schoolyard habitats and natural play areas at or near schools, pre-schools and child care facilities wherever possible. 

Ohio is the most progressive state in the country when it comes to green schools. There are 956 registered LEED Certified Schools in the United States, with 255 of them (25%)in Ohio. Texas comes in a distant second with 59. However, naturalizing areas on school grounds has been largely overlooked until recently. Likewise, the U. S. Green Building Council does not address this in its current LEED for Schools standards, but it is under review as addressed in the Transportation and Urban Planning section of this report.

Vegetative roofs make it possible for all newly constructed school buildings to have natural areas that may be used for school gardens and play areas when proper safety measures are in place. And, throughout the state, individual schools are creating school gardens and other natural areas using whatever space they have. This is often being done with volunteer help and in collaboration with non-profit organizations.

Still, many existing schools, especially those in urban areas, have no space available. In those situations, it may be possible to enter into joint use agreements with nearby parks, recreation centers, community gardens or other appropriate organizations. Ohio’s Safe Routes to School Program can be of assistance in assuring that students can safely access those locations.

Relative to pre-schools and child care centers, facilities range from private homes, traditional schools, churches and office buildings. Many of the Ohio’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency’s (OCCRA) member agencies like Action for Children and 4C for Children have offered programs encouraging directors and teachers to assess available natural spaces and have provided training for both unstructured and structured activities in nature. Preschools and child care centers can utilize many of the same strategies identified for K-12 schools. Currently, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is making revisions to the child care licensing requirements. These requirements are the basis for monitoring the state’s child care facilities, which currently have over 455,000 spaces for children. Writing teams have been formed to develop new requirements and are discussing the role of nature play and learning, given the confines of many child care facilities.

Education Strategy 1: Statewide Environmental Literacy Plan

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.