Rhode Island Environmental Education Association
The Ocean State Environmental Education Collaborative
No Child Left Inside Coalition
The New England Environmental Education Alliance
The North American Association for Environmental Education
At Roger Williams Park Zoo we don’t just offer environmental education – we advocate for it by working with community partners and supporting legislative action, on both a local and national level.
On December 9, 2015, Congress passed a new K-12 education law that empowers schools, promises more flexibility for states, and reduces the reliance on high-stakes testing in public schools while maintaining strong oversight of student achievement.
Included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a key provision co-authored by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) that will strengthen environmental education programs in schools across the country.
• It passed in the Senate on December 9, 2015 with a vote of 85-12.
• The President has signaled he will sign, which by law will be within 10 days.
(The key language sits in Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act—21st Century Schools)
• Environmental education is called out as eligible for funding under a $1.6B “well-rounded education” grants program
• Environmental literacy programs are eligible for funding as part of the $1B 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
• The prioritization of STEM activities including “hands-on learning” and “field-based or service learning” to enhance understanding of STEM subjects may provide additional opportunities for environmental science education programs.
While we are celebrating this advance for environmental education after many years of hard work, there is a great deal that will need to happen after the legislation is signed into law. Along with our environmental education partners across the country, we will work to:
• Make recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education regarding the design of the grant programs described in Title IV of the bill
• Develop fact sheets and messages that provide state and local education agencies and their partners important information about how ESSA funds can be used to support essential environmental education programs and implementation of environmental literacy plans
• Identify and disseminate models for the use of U.S. Education grant funds to support effective environmental education in K-12 schools.
Introduced in the Senate by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and in the House by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill seeks to authorize $500 million over five years to help states make environmental education a bigger priority in America's classrooms.
The bill would provide federal funding to train teachers to operate model environmental education programs. It would also provide funding to states that create environmental literacy plans and re-establish the Office of Environmental Education within the U.S. Department of Education to oversee critical environmental education activities. If passed, the NCLI bill could mean that more schools could take advantage of unique and valuable environmental education resources, like zoos, to provide valuable experiential learning.