A Big Step Forward: New K-12 Education Bill Strengthens Environmental Education

President Obama has signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) -- sweeping bipartisan legislation that for the first time, supports opportunities for environmental education and hands-on, field-based learning experiences.

The gains for environmental education come as a result of years-long work by supporters of the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act, which sought to fund states’ efforts to implement environmental literacy plans in K-12 public schools. New Hampshire Environmental Educators is now gearing up for the long and complicated next steps of translating the bill's environmental education provisions to increase support for environmental literacy programs and curricula in New Hampshire.

Under the new bill, environmental education would be eligible for funding through grants to states for “programs and activities that support access to a well-rounded education.” Environmental literacy programs are now also included among eligible programs for funding through 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. Additionally, the inclusion of Title IV funds for hands-on, field-based, or service learning to enhance understanding of science, technology, engineering and math subjects provides a potential boost for environmental science education programs.

New Hampshire already has developed a comprehensive Environmental Literacy Plan. It is time to bring that plan back to the forefront and to the attention of the Department of Education. As federal funding starts to develop, it will be advantageous that we make it easy for teachers and administrators to know where and how to find environmental education programming. As a start, NHEE hopes that this website, which will include a comprehensive map of organizations throughout the state, helps inform people about the organizations doing great EE throughout the state. We also hope to foster connections between these organizations and schools hoping to add EE to their curriculum. Over the next year, NHEE will be working hard to best leverage this win for the environmental education community.