Federal Policies

This section details a wide range of different policies. Outdoor learning and recreation policies show up in a wide range of ways. These related policies are a vehicle for change in outdoor learning. These related policies are often part of a movement, and are widespread across the United States.

 

No Child Left Inside

Three states (Washington, Minnesota, and Hawaii) have adopted a No Child Left Inside program named after the federal No Child Left Inside Act in 2009. All 3 of these programs are centered around providing financial support and resources to establish and maintain outdoor education programs for students. The main goal of the federal legislation is to amend the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to require states, before receiving grants for implementation, to develop environmental literacy plans (ELPs) for students (PreK-12) that include environmental education standards and teacher training. Developed programs include funding to support curriculum changes and field trips to outdoor spaces, teacher training, to provide innovative technology, and to develop management studies.

Hawaii’s No Child Left Inside Grant Program

-In 2020, Hawaii became the third state to adopt a No Child Left Inside policy, providing financial support and resources to establish and maintain outdoor education programs for students.  

-This program will be phased in, starting with schools with the most significant needs, and those focused on at-risk students.

-This grant program will be funded by appropriations by the legislature, gifts, donations, and grants, and other monies sent to support the No Child Left Inside Grant Program.

Minnesota No Child Left Inside Grant Program

-In 2019, Minnesota became the second state to adopt a No Child Left Inside policy, supporting outdoor experiences in both formal and informal education settings, with an emphasis on traditional outdoor activities, natural resource education, and disadvantaged youth.

-Funded by the Department of Natural Resources, grants between $5000 and $50,000 are awarded in three categories: Natural resources education and outdoor recreation, Fishing, hunting, and shooting sports programs, and High school fishing leagues.  

-Total Program Funding: $1.2 million

Washington No Child Left Inside

-Following a successful pilot program by Washington State Parks in 2008, the legislature resurrected the program upon the State Parks’ request and made it permanent in 2015, making Washington’s No Child Left Inside program the first of its kind. 

-Funding focuses on serving students at risk of failing or dropping out of school, under-represented learners, and children facing social, behavior, economic and health barriers in order to help them improve their overall academic performance, self-esteem, personal responsibility, community involvement, personal health, and understanding of nature.

-Total Program Funding: $5.1 million

-Community-based programs, formal school programs, informal after school programs, local agencies, Native American tribes, nonprofit organizations, private entities including individuals and businesses, special purpose districts, and veteran organizations are all eligible to apply for grants.

 

Every Kid Outdoors Act

In 2015, President Barack Obama established the Every Kid in a Park program which invited fourthgrade students and their families to visit the 419 units of the National Park System around the country. In 2019, this program was updated by a collaboration between the Department of the Interior, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Forest Service who all work together to provide students in the 4th-grade with free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries, and forests.

 

The state of Nevada, modeled after the federal legislation, passed a state law that offers passes to every fifth-grade student in the state to access any of Nevada’s 26 state parks and recreational areas for one year.

 

Several states, including Indiana, Maryland, New York, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Mexico have adopted the program into their state park systems so that 4th-grade students in these states may present their federal Every Kid Outdoors pass to access state parks in their home states as well.

Program Name
Ages Served
Location
Year Adopted

Every Kid Outdoors Act

4th-grade students

Federal

Park Permits to Nevada Youth

5th-grade students

Nevada

2017

2015, amended in 2019

Every Kid Outdoors Act

4th-grade students

New Mexico

2015

Every Kid Outdoors Act

4th-grade students

Wyoming

2015

Every Kid Outdoors Act

4th-grade students

Idaho

2015

Every Kid Outdoors Act

4th-grade students

New York

2015

Every Kid Outdoors Act

Every Kid Outdoors Act

4th-grade students

4th-grade students

Maryland

Indiana

2016

2016

Environmental Literacy Plan

Environmental Literacy Plans (ELP) are state-specific frameworks that outline and support school systems relating to environmental literacy and environmental education programs.  ELPs are the central component of the No Child Left Inside Movement of 2008, when the national bill was passed, and was followed by the Washington, Minnesota, and Hawaii acts.  States have taken a variety of approaches in implementing their ELPs, but the No Child Left Inside Act specifies that an ELP must:

  • Outline how graduation requirements will guarantee that students are environmentally literate when they graduate

  • Provide field and hands-on experiences as part of regular school curriculum, including environmental service-learning opportunities

  • Provides targeted professional development opportunities that will allow educators to improve their own environmental literacy, skills in teaching about environmental issues, and field-based pedagogical skills

  • Describe how the state will assess the environmental literacy of students by identifying specific content standards, content areas, and subjects instruction will take place

  • Describe how the state education agency will implement the ELP, including information around funding and other essential support

  • Be periodically updated by the state educational agency

Implementation underway
Have adopted but not yet begun implementation

California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin

Nebraska

Have completed ELPs that have not yet been adopted

Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia

Are in the planning stage of their ELPs

Arizona, Georgia, Indiana,  Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia

Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights

Next Generation Science Standards

15 states, (California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee) and 6 cities (Baltimore, San Francisco, Austin, Salt Lake City, Rochester, Seattle) have passed or are in the process of passing a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, a public-facing statement which outline goals a community or state has for its youth. They can be passed as a resolution, proclamation, or program. They identify essential rights to the outdoors that every child deserve to have as they grow up. This effort is part of a national initiative by Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) and Cities Connecting Children to Nature, with the intention of increasing equitable access to nature for children. Maine is currently pursuing the work of a similar initiative.

 

The Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative offers several points of advice for other cities or states to start or advance their own Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights:

Include additional co-signers on the bill for a greater impact. Use the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights as an opportunity to highlight and include related goals or initiatives. Launch the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights along with another nature-connection initiative. Connect Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights with children’s programming that already exists to establish partnerships with surrounding agencies and organizations that already have connections with children and families. Center equity while developing the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are K-12 science content standards. The NGSS were developed to address the rapidly changing field of science to help students build skills in STEM that will equip students who might choose to pursue careers in the STEM field.

 

21 states (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii) have adopted the NGSS. Of those states, five include additional funding towards implementing the standards.

 

The NGSS allows for experiential, explorative learning experiences because of its three-dimensional instruction strategy. These three pillars that support each standard are Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. The NGSS’s three-dimensional learning strategy shifts the perspective of science education. Using the three pillars, students are able to understand scientific concepts, use those concepts to problem solve, and also recognize how those concepts are interdisciplinary. Climate Education has explicitly been written into the NGSS, listed as one of the core ideas supporting Earth and Space Science performance expectations.

State
Year Adopted