Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No Child Left Inside Bill Reintroduced: What it means for North Carolina

Update! The NCLI was introduced in the House and Senate on Thursday, July 14, 2011!

NCLI Act? N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan?
What does it all mean?

This piece by Sarah Yelton, the formerPreK-12 Environmental Education Program Consultant for the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, spells out what NCLI could mean for North Carolina, why we need an Environmental Literacy Plan and the steps being taken to develop it. An earlier version of this story appeared in the Environmental Educators of N.C. Newsletter.

My guess is that many of you have heard the term “No Child Left Inside” by now. It’s a term that has been floating around for a few years and is used most often to refer to federal legislation that will have a significant impact on the state of environmental education in North Carolina and across the country.

So why is this important for North Carolina? The NCLI Act establishes and sets aside funding for two new federal grant programs for environmental education. School districts will be able to partner with EE centers, non-profit organizations, natural resource agencies, colleges and universities and others to develop and evaluate new programs for teacher professional development and capacity building in environmental education. These might be teacher training institutes, programs that provide outdoor experiences for students, new policy approaches for incorporating EE into the curriculum at the state or district level, or evaluating the effectiveness of EE in improving student achievement, to name just a few examples. But to be eligible for either of these grant programs, North Carolina must have in place a plan that ensures graduates of our state educational system will be environmentally literate.

To position North Carolina to take advantage of the funding made possible through NCLI as soon as it becomes available, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) entered into a partnership to develop a state environmental literacy plan in the fall of 2008. In April of 2009, the Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) Working Group, which includes stakeholders from the education and environmental communities such as EENC and the NC Association of EE Centers, convened for the first time with DPI and DENR Office of EE and Public Affairs staff to begin developing the environmental literacy plan.

When complete, North Carolina’s environmental literacy plan will describe how DPI will measure the environmental literacy of students, including relevant academic content standards regarding EE and a description of how the plan relates to graduation requirements. It will also provide for teacher professional development opportunities that support environmental literacy of students and explain how DPI will implement the plan, including securing funding and other necessary support. The team has already completed a first draft of the ELP plan, which is available for public review: A second draft will be available by late spring or early summer. Individuals can sign up for email alerts for ELP updates at the link.

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and NCDPI held an event May 12, 2010 at Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary in Raleigh to officially kickoff the ELP partnership. News 14 Carolina did an excellent video and report. Visit this link for the complete story. Senator Josh Stein delivered remarks, as well as State Superintendent June Atkinson and N.C. DENR Secretary Dee Freeman.

Great video from the N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan Kickoff

An earlier version of the NCLI Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives with broad bi-partisan support before the 110th session of Congress ended in 2008. The NCLI Act was listed as one of 4 key pieces of legislation that will impact the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind). In North Carolina, Representatives Price, Shuler and Etheridge signed on as co-sponsors of the 2009 bill. 

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of the North Carolina Environmental Literacy Plan and the 2011 No Child Left Inside Act.  

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