U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes proposes bill to integrate environmental education into NCLB

The San Francisco Examiner – July 17, 2007
By Carolyn Peirce

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes proposes bill to integrate environmental education into NCLB

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - A Maryland representative wants to raise the “national conscience” about the environment in the classroom by integrating environmental education into the federal No Child Left Behind Act by next fall.

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-District 3, recently introduced a bill that he said would “make sure awareness about the planet is at a fever-pitch level, which is where it should be if we’re going to save the planet.”

“The fate of the Chesapeake Bay and the environment is in the hands of the next generation,” Don Baugh of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said at a Monday gathering of environmentalists and educators.

Backing Sarbanes’ bill is the No Child Left Inside Coalition, which started in 2006 with the goal of refocusing No Child Left Behind to include environmental education with math and reading skills.

To meet the federal mandate’s standards, teachers have been forced to reduce time spent on environmental topics and limit outdoor field trips that cut into classroom instruction time, Baker said.

“Math, reading and liberal arts are all important, but environmental education is just as critical,” said Donna Harris-Aikens, spokeswoman for the National Education Association, which is not part of the coalition but has 3.2 million members backing the legislation.

The environmental programs in county schools are primarily locally funded, said Bill Rhinehart, state Education Department spokesman.


The Maryland Department of Education requires each school system to provide an environmental education program at least once in the elementary, middle and high school years.

The purpose of the program is to encourage students to “create and maintain an optimal relationship between themselves and the environment, and to preserve and protect the unique natural resources,” specifically the Chesapeake Bay, according to Maryland’s public schools Web site.

The counties integrate environmental issues into their curriculums in various ways.

» In Anne Arundel, science fair projects are used among the elementary schools with environmental science units offered in middle schools and elective courses in high schools.

» In Carroll, environmental topics are integrated into the science curriculums for the elementary schools; an outdoor residential program at Camp Hashawa to conduct environmental investigations is offered in middle school and elective courses are offered in high schools.

» In Harford and Howard, environmental issues are incorporated into the science curriculums for elementary and middle schools, and elective courses in high schools.

» In Baltimore County, environmental issues are incorporated into the science curriculums for elementary and middle schools, and an environmental science and technology program in high school.

Source: Web sites for Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard public schools


The bill includes:

» Creating grant programs for teacher training and environmental education.

» Requiring states to develop environmental literacy plans for kindergarten through 12th grade.

» Making environmental education part of the Fund for the Improvement of Education, a source of funding for states and school superintendents.

» The bill, recently introduced by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-District 3, is now in the House Committee on Education and Labor.

» The purpose of the bill is “to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 regarding environmental education,” according to the bill.

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