Shaping Youth Joins EcoLiteracy Coalition: No Child Left INSIDE

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium, I’m always keenly aware when I’m being ‘played’ by both the ‘right and left’ of a political hot potato, and I strive to balance spin accordingly. But sometimes, legislation is just smack dab common sense for all, pairing centrist thinking with beneficial outcomes…

Shaping Youth is breaking form in supporting two key coalitions impacting children…One is the FCC coalition addressing embedded product placement and integration and the other is the No Child Left INSIDE Coalition (NCLI) supporting environmental education. Both involve policies taking shape right this minute at the national legislative level and both involve children’s critical thinking skills in eco-literacy and media literacy. (hat tip to EarthSeeds Project for the NCLI links)

Paraphrasing “We can’t protect what we don’t know” (which I’ve written about many a time and used in Earthseeds Project endeavors) it’s readily apparent that knowledge serves. It takes hands-on experience (in nature AND in media!) to get ‘up close and personal’ with the beasties we don’t know…Example?

Many a parent has banned MySpace/social media sites without even understanding them or dissed virtual worlds without ever going in one rather than taking the time to develop the skill sets to cherry pick the value. Likewise, some kids show disdain for math and science or groan at the difficulty of chemistry, stuck in stereotypes of fear and math mythology without opening their minds to applied science measured from an eco-perspective, using the white board of the great outdoors!

To me, it’s all enmeshed…Immersive, lifelong learning sticks…

Leverage what kids enjoy and they learn more. Make it relevant for their world, and they see more.

Likewise, online and offline learning easily co-exists in balanced harmony, serving as springboards for one another to ‘learn by doing’ and ‘do by learning.’ It doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ proposition with one vilifying the other.

So what does The NCLI Act do? It expands grants to ensure teachers have knowledge and skills to teach environmental education, and rewards states that incorporate eco-literacy into their existing curricula in fresh new ways with funding resources.

The “Get ‘Em Outside” video on YouTube cited a study claiming children could identify 1000 corporate logos but fewer than ten plants or animals native to their backyard.

It also mentioned children as young as five showed a decrease in ADD symptoms when engaged in nature. (mind you, the media literacy queen in me wanted the exact study links, so if anyone has ’em, please forward for attribution!)

Regardless, to me an environmental imperative is a given from a public health standpoint…

…And since children are naturally drawn to the future of the planet, with youth leading the way as eco-saviors, mindful middle schoolers and green teens galore, it makes perfect sense to plant eco-literacy through education, and nourish it outdoors.

Yah, I know, it shouldn’t take an act of Congress to get kids to ‘go outside and play.’

But with recess/PE cutbacks and childhood obesity, plus media proliferation and narrowed curriculum mandates, I’d say it can’t hurt to segue BOTH eco and media literacy into school environs…at earlier ages and stages.

That’s why Shaping Youth is joining more than 400 groups across the country, representing 20 million people, to give schools the resources they need…inside and outside the classroom. Wanna join in?

The way I see it, the snail-patters and spider-stompers that co-exist on K-5 cement playgrounds represent a surreal microcosm of life.

If we extend those polarities onto neutral ground in the outdoors, to expose the natural synergies and create the opportunity to ask ‘why’ then there are shifts in understanding that begin to tumble forth, gushing like a waterfall.

“Why do we need spiders and snails in the first place?”

“What do they really DO?”

And not to miss out on the irony of mass media leaking in, as Disney’s Lion King “Circle of Life” song bounces through my brain, I recall a nature hike media moment with a precocious 4th grade boy who saw two banana slugs mating and made a condom joke about “hoping they were wearing protection.”

Um, yeah. So yes, reality check…there’s a Kids Getting Older, Younger (KGOY) element in play, but we should even use THESE field study findings as ‘teaching moments’ to adapt rhetoric into reality and keep it real and relevant.

One of my favorite kid quotes is from British anthropologist and science writer Roger Lewin who said,

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”

With narrowing curriculum, nature deficit disorder, and the importance of environmental education (EE) on the rise, I’d only caution that core content areas will work best to empower kids when passion and pragmatics are paired.

All too often media paints the problems to solve with such large brushstrokes that kids feel overwhelmed staring at the vastness of the canvas.

I say choose a couple of complimentary colors that blend and blur into new discoveries.

If you toss out an entire palette of ‘eco-learning’ at once, all the problems that need solving mush together in a disheartening, muddy mess.

Keep it small. Make it doable. Build on successes. Follow kids’ passions.

Result? No Child Left INSIDE.

Related news from No Child Left INSIDE (NCLI

06.26.2008 – US Bill Proposes Funding for Outdoor Education

05.19.2008 – Schools Can’t Spare Time or Dimes for Field Trips

04.23.2008 – O’Malley, Sarbanes Take Steps to Raise New ‘Green’ Generation

04.23.2008 – Law Proposes No Child Left Inside: WAMU radio broadcast

03.17.2008 – Inside the Capitol, The Great Outdoors

03.07.2008 – NACO Resolution

03.03.2008 – Battling Nature Deficit Disorder: Interview with R. Louv

02.05.2008 – MSNBC Video: Housebound

02.05.2008 – Conservation Science: Do People Still Care About Nature?

02.01.2008 – A Closer Look at Changes for Specific Subjects, Year 5 of NCLB

01.28.2008 – NCLI Would Be Good News for Env. Education

01.02.2008 – Schools Fail for Not Teaching Environmental Lessons

01.01.2008 – Classrooms Are Going Green – Scholastic News

Executive Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, Brian Day, was interviewed by Grist, an online environmental news and commentary publication. Click here to view his comments on the most recent No Child Left Inside developments.

Shaping Youth’s Article Summary of Related Posts (See EcoKids Category)

Going Green with Red, White & Blue Celebrations (EcoSalon, EcoStiletto, Green Mary)

Media Unplugged: Shaping Youth Off the Grid

The Case for Make Believe: Part Two (Defending pretending; need for prominent play)

The Case for Make Believe: Part One (Eco-Twister, Inter-connectedness)

Teen Triplets Create Polar Bear Nation: Clothing for a Cause

Green Digital Media in Education: (Zookazoo, Hulala Girls, Gorilla in the Greenhouse)

Envirolution: Green Society Gets the Red Carpet Treatment

Greenwashing: Sustainable Brands vs. Branding Bandwagons

Kids Plant Virtual Trees to Benefit REAL Trees in Dizzywood

Get Kids to Eat Green: Using Shrek Against His Drek

Seeding Virtual Worlds: Kids Going Green in Dizzywood

Nim’s Island: Shaping Youth Through Imagination & Adventure

When Green Gets Jaded: Marketing Hope to Kids

Earth Hour & Kids: Darkness Becomes A Companion Youth Engagement in Virtual Walk for Water

Kids’ Gardening, Spring Break & the Seinfeld Equinox

How to Turn People Green

If Kids Could Be Dolphins: The Power of Creative Play

Greentrepreneurs: Recycle Bank Shows Kids it Pays to Be Green

What’s A Kids Party Without Piles of Presents? EchoAge

Shaping Youth in Semi-Finals For Echoing Green Fellowship

S.F. Oil Spill Prompts Altruism & Activism in Kids

Planting Earthseeds Via The Magic School Bus: Eco-Media For Kids

The Great Turtle Race: Digital Media Cartoon Critter Fun (with conservation int’l)

Inspire Kids With Green Media: Kid-Vid & Games Galore

New Media Worldometers Help Data Click With Kids

Media Savvy Kids and Nature Deficit Disorder

The Nature of Tweens: Wired Worlds & Outdoor Ed

Shaping Youth Through Nature, Media Unplugged

Eco-Friendly Electronics, Go Green With Your Wired World

The 11th Hour: Leonardo DiCaprio’s New Documentary

5th International Symposium/Youth Collaboratory: Digital Earth

Green Media & Electric Cars: New Energy Shaping Youth

Care2 Make A Difference? Social Media/Kids

Digital Activism: Kids Stump for Change (World Wildlife Fund)

Youth Atwitter On LiveEarth Concert 7-07-07

Can Somethin’ Be Done About All This Consumption?

Inconvenient Truth Meets Digital Earth, Marketing Hope

Teen Thrive Earth Fest: Social Media & Green Teens

Can Somethin’ Be Done About All This Consumption?

Green Scene Needs Digital Convergence for a REAL Power Shift/Too Many ‘Green’ Conferences



  1. Kirsten Bollen says

    Amy – thanks so much for reminding us of what is really necessary for a well-rounded education – AND for giving me the opportunity to plug one of my favorite authors:
    “But now,” said the Once-ler
    “Now that you’re here,
    the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear,
    UNLESS someone like you
    cares a whole awful lot,
    nothing is going to get better.
    It’s not.”

    I’m loving Last Child in the Woods btw – but haven’t been as successful at getting him on the bedtime story docket as Dr. Seuss:-)

  2. Ah, the Lorax, one of my faves…

    Have you seen the Gaia Girls book series? I just got a ping from the author who evidently is one of my new colleagues at EcoChild’s Play (since I’m the newbie I don’t know who’s who yet!)

    Her books look worthy of a blog post, and she’s got a cool media mashup using YouTube as a ‘camp/quest’ riffing off the Gaia Girls series…check out her blog here:

    I’m going to explore further…as the reviews on Treehugger, and others like: have piqued my interest…

  3. Amy, what a wonderful treasure of of articles you share on the topic of No Child Left Inside. Nature nurtures both mind and soul so it’s great to see children connect to it.

    When choosing a home and a place to settle, my husband and I elected the country. As a result, we and the children raised several kinds of animals: chickens, ducks, cows, pigs and horses. My son worked on the neighbor’s farm where he learned much about what it takes to be a successful farmer, how to be responsible, and a great respect for people who live so close to the land. My daughter was able to ride horses and compete and later became a certified instructor and worked at summer camps teaching many other youth to ride.

    We own about 50 acres of woods and every time I go there, I feel very replenished. When I took my grandsons and introduced them, I did it as an adventure and they loved coming back again and again.

  4. wow, Robyn, 50 acres of McMasters woods? Would love to visit some time! We’re in the country right now for my daughter’s bday (up near Tahoe forests) and she’s still learning the hard way that nature’s circle of life needs respected in a ‘hands off’ manner…she tried to help a fledgling Starling and it died this morning…(as one who has spent 9 years volunteering in wildlife rehab, I told her the key is to ‘watch from afar for an hour to see if the mama bird comes back’ as they need to eat about every 30 min., and humans don’t have much luck simulating mama birds, even with droppers and gruel…

    They tried to feed it worms from the compost pile, but frankly, I think it was too young to even handle that…sigh.

    The baby fawns on the lawn are soooooo tame though, the teens have been in awe watching ‘up close & personal’…

    Yep…my folks’ place is a nice retreat from the urban environs of S.F./Bay area…so very important to have the kids see it, feel it, experience it.

  5. No Child Left Inside Coalition Grows to 500 Members Today!

    “Wow! Today we reached a milestone as the No Child Left Inside Coalition attracted its 500th member organization. We have been amazed at the incredible support for improving environmental education. More and more groups are coming on board to back our push for the No Child Left Inside Act.

    The NCLI Coalition was formed only 18 months ago. Today, NCLI member organizations represent more than 22 million Americans. These groups are focused on a variety of areas — the environment, education, outdoor recreation, businesses, public health and science. While they have different interests, they share a commitment to improving how we teach kids about their natural world.

    This milestone comes at a critical time–we are awaiting final word that the full House of Representatives will vote on the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 next week!

    Keep an eye on your e-mail for an action alert urging all 22 million people represented by the 500 NCLI organizations to contact their representative in Congress and ask them to support the Act.”

    To see the complete list of our members or to find out more about the No Child Left Inside Act, visit

    And continue to spread the word about our Coalition. Next stop: 1,000 members!

    Don Baugh
    NCLI Coalition Coordinator
    No Child Left Inside Coalition

  6. More today, with the house vote drawing near…

    Latest from NCLI:

    House of Representatives
    to Vote On NCLI Act Soon

    We need you to ask Your Representative to
    Support Environmental Education

    The No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 is expected to be voted on soon by the full House of Representatives. The No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 amends the National Environmental Education Act and achieves several of the Coalition’s key goals — authorizing funding for teacher training, expanding environmental education programs, and setting up a grant program to encourage states to create environmental literacy plans.

    As we prepare for a House vote, now is the time for members of the Coalition to contact Congress.

    Please take a few minutes and contact your representative to urge them to vote for the legislation on the floor, even if he or she has already signed on as a co-sponsor or voted for the NCLI Act in committee. If they have supported it in the past, say “Thank You” when you contact them. (See list of co-sponsors and committee supporters below.)

    Below, we have included a Sample Letter to help you craft your letters and emails to Congress. Customize your letter by including information about your organization’s interest in environmental education.

    You can also directly email your representative through our website,, by clicking on “Contact Your Congressperson” and filling out the short form.

    The No Child Left Inside Coalition is growing every day and now has more than 690 member organizations, representing more than 40 million people who understand the value of environmental education. Now is the time for their voices to be heard in Washington.

    For more information about the NCLI Act and our Coalition, visit And thanks for your support!

    Abby Ybarra, Grassroots Coordinator
    No Child Left Inside Coalition

    No Child Left Inside Act Co-Sponsors

    Rep Allen, Thomas H. [ME-1] – 10/22/2007
    Rep Altmire, Jason [PA-4] – 4/23/2008
    Rep Andrews, Robert E. [NJ-1] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] – 10/22/2007
    Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-28] – 11/7/2007
    Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Blumenauer, Earl [OR-3] – 4/30/2008
    Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] – 12/13/2007
    Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] – 6/17/2008
    Rep Braley, Bruce L. [IA-1] – 10/3/2007
    Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23] – 4/16/2008
    Rep Carnahan, Russ [MO-3] – 6/17/2008
    Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [NY-11] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] – 10/22/2007
    Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] – 7/8/2008
    Rep Courtney, Joe [CT-2] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Davis, Susan A. [CA-53] – 9/18/2007
    Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1] – 1/15/2008
    Rep Delahunt, William D. [MA-10] – 3/13/2008
    Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] – 11/7/2007
    Rep Etheridge, Bob [NC-2] – 2/25/2008
    Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] – 9/24/2007
    Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] – 10/3/2007
    Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Hare, Phil [IL-17] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] – 12/19/2007
    Rep Hinojosa, Ruben [TX-15] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [HI-2] – 11/7/2007
    Rep Hodes, Paul W. [NH-2] – 5/6/2008
    Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] – 10/3/2007
    Rep Kildee, Dale E. [MI-5] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] – 3/12/2008
    Rep Lewis, John [GA-5] – 10/22/2007
    Rep LoBiondo, Frank A. [NJ-2] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2] – 6/17/2008
    Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] – 12/4/2007
    Rep Marshall, Jim [GA-8] – 4/23/2008
    Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5] – 6/11/2008
    Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3] – 9/18/2007
    Rep McNerney, Jerry [CA-11] – 11/1/2007
    Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] – 7/9/2008
    Rep Moran, James P. [VA-8] – 10/30/2007
    Rep Olver, John W. [MA-1] – 4/10/2008
    Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Perlmutter, Ed [CO-7] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Reyes, Silvestre [TX-16] – 12/13/2007
    Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9] – 10/22/2007
    Rep Ruppersberger, C.A. Dutch [MD-2] – 4/17/2008
    Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Saxton, Jim [NJ-3] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Scott, Robert C. “Bobby” [VA-3] – 10/30/2007
    Rep Sestak, Joe [PA-7] – 11/7/2007
    Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Sires, Albio [NJ-13] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] – 11/7/2007
    Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6] – 6/11/2008
    Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Wu, David [OR-1] – 9/18/2007
    Rep Wynn, Albert Russell [MD-4] – 11/13/2007
    Rep Yarmuth, John A. [KY-3] – 6/11/2008

    No Child Left Inside Act Committee Supporters

    Mr. MILLER, Chairman (CA-07)
    Mr. KILDEE, Vice Chairman (MI-05)
    Mr. PAYNE (NJ-10)
    Mr. ANDREWS (NJ-01)
    Mr. SCOTT (VA-03)
    Ms. WOOLSEY (CA-06)
    Mr. HINOJOSA (TX-15)
    Mrs. McCARTHY (NY-04)
    Mr. KUCINICH (OH-10)
    Mr. WU (OR-01)
    Mr. HOLT (NJ-12)
    Mrs. SUSAN DAVIS (CA-53)
    Mr. DANNY DAVIS (IL-07)
    Mr. GRIJALVA (AZ-07)
    Ms. SANCHEZ (CA-39)
    Mr. SARBANES (MD-03)
    Mr. SESTAK (PA-07)
    Mr. LOEBSACK (IA-02)
    Ms. HIRONO (HI-02)
    Mr. ALTMIRE (PA-04)
    Mr. YARMUTH (KY-03)
    Mr. HARE (IL-17)
    Ms. CLARKE (NY-11)
    Mr. COURTNEY (CT-02)
    Ms. SHEA-PORTER (NH-01)
    Mr. McKEON (CA-25)
    Mr. PETRI (WI-06)
    Mr. CASTLE (DE-At Large)
    Mr. SOUDER (IN-03)
    Mr. EHLERS (MI-03)
    Mrs. BIGGERT (IL-13)
    Mr. PLATTS (PA-19)
    Mr. KELLER (FL-8)
    Mr. FORTUÑO (PR)
    Mr. BOUSTANY (LA-07)
    Mr. KUHL (NY-29)

    Sample Letter to Urge Support

    Targets: All House Members who will vote on the NCLI Act.

    E-mail Subject Line: Support the No Child Left Inside Act (HR 3036)

    Dear Representative xx:

    I am writing to urge you to support the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 (H.R. 3036) when it comes before the House of Representatives next week. This legislation addresses critical environmental challenges by strengthening and expanding environmental education in America’s classrooms.

    Environmental education is critical now because of the complex environmental challenges confronting the nation and world, which require an informed citizenry and engaged, knowledgeable individuals.

    Environmental education also provides strong benefits in the classroom. It has been shown to excite students by engaging them in their world and getting them outside to learn and explore. Environmental education also promotes higher-order thinking skills and is correlated with higher test scores in math and reading.

    Today, environmental education is hampered by a lack of adequate funding, both at the state and federal levels. The No Child Left Inside Act will create vital new funding to train teachers, expand programs, and help states create environmental literacy plans to ensure that students are environmentally literate. It is strongly backed by the No Child Left Inside Coalition, which has more than 500 member organizations from across the country, all of whom believe it is critical to improve environmental education.

    Please support environmental education for all students by voting for H.R. 3036, the No Child Left Inside Act.

  7. Woohoo! We did it! But we’re not out of the woods yet!!

    NCLI passed Congress yesterday…and the coalition is now up to 745 organizations!!! Lend a hand, spread the word for eco-literacy!

  8. the environmental news these days are full of man-made disasters like oil spills*`:

  9. […] Shaping Youth Joins Eco-Literacy Coalition: NCLI […]

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