Press Release
April 16, 2012

Presidential Initiative On Environmental Literacy Announced by EPA Administrator: Joint Task Force of EPA, Education, and Interior

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today applauded the creation of a Presidential task force to advance environmental education in the United States, which was announced by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson. The EPA, along with the U.S. Departments of Education and Interior, will co-lead the task force.

"It's gratifying that President Obama and his Cabinet recognize the value of environmental education to our country's future, and have committed to ensuring children across the country benefit from this important approach to education" said Will Baker, CBF President. "A collaborative, cohesive approach such as this could provide a means to advance a national policy on environmental literacy that is much needed during this time of scarce federal resources, and of drastic cuts in environmental education funding."

The announcement of the task force came at the first-ever White House Summit on Environmental Education today in Washington, D.C. at which Jackson, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and other agency and private sector representatives addressed leaders in the environmental education movement. April 11-17 is National Environmental Education Week.

The President's Council on Environmental Literacy will undertake a comprehensive assessment of current formal and informal environmental education programs and activities carried out by the federal government. The Council's goal is to develop and submit a thorough and coordinated plan and strategy to promote the education, job skill training, health, and well-being of America's youth and adults through formal and informal environmental education.  

Such a coordinated environmental literacy policy could help to:

  • Ensure that environmental education programs – both formal and informal –reach the greatest number of our youth and citizens of all ages, regardless of their income, race, ethnic or language background, or disability status.
  • Ensure that existing environmental, natural resource, conservation, outdoor, and energy education programs at the federal level function efficiently in a systematic manner and get the "biggest bang for the buck."
  • Support the efforts of some 40 states that are now in the process of developing and implementing environmental literacy plans, while preserving states' authority to determine their environmental education curriculum.
  • Reconnect Americans to the great outdoors and raise a healthier generation of citizens.

"I am very pleased to be a part of today's White House Summit on Environmental Education and I commend the President for convening it," said Congressman Sarbanes, who is a leader in promoting environmental education and authored the No Child Left Inside Act. "Environmental education must be a national priority. Research shows that hands-on, outdoor environmental education has a measurably positive impact not only on student achievement in science, but also in reading, math and social studies. If we are going to successfully meet the many economic, environmental, and energy related challenges we now face, we must invest in environmental education to grow the next generation of innovators, scientists and environmental stewards."

CBF is a leader in environmental education and founded the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Coalition, a national coalition of over 2,000 business, health, youth, faith, recreational, environmental, and educational groups representing over 50 million Americans.

The Coalition actively supported the inclusion of the NCLI Act in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. That Act is the blueprint for the federal government's involvement in national education policy. With reauthorization of the blueprint stalled in Congress, CBF and others in the NCLI Coalition have advocated for a federal task force as a means to create a national plan for environmental education that will result in profound positive impacts on the environmental literacy of our nation's youth and citizens for generations to come.

Addition signs of the increasing support for environmental education around the country include:

  • The number of high school students taking the Advanced Placement Environmental Science course jumped 426 percent in the past 10 years compared to an average increase of 97 percent for all AP subject exams over the same period. Seventh Annual AP Report to the Nation  (PDF 6.42 MB)
  • At least 200 green charters schools have opened across the country in recent years using a research-based curriculum called EIC, or Environment as an Integrating Context for learning. The idea involves using nature and the environment as a teaching tool for everything from math to reading to history. Good Education website

Find out more about environmental education:

 

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