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Moderator Endorsed: K-12 EE
Moderator Endorsed: K-12 EE

450+ Signatures Collected on Letter to Congressional Leaders Asking for Funding Towards Improved Outdoor School Spaces

Wow! A huge thank you to all of the organizations that signed on to a letter to Congress this week. Please read our press release below (full press release is here):

Washington, DC, July 23, 2020 – More than 450 national, state, regional, and local organizations sent a joint letter this week to the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate, asking them to think creatively about ways to fund school reopening. These organizations recognize that whether to reopen in person or virtually is a local decision but are recommending that school grounds and outdoor spaces be strongly considered for Congressional funding when schools do reopen. 

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), its state and regional Affiliates, and hundreds of colleague organizations feel that, for schools that plan to reopen in the coming months, outdoor spaces and programs are a major safety and educational asset. The use of outdoor spaces, schoolyards, gardens, vegetated areas, and more can help students and faculty have engaging places to learn while staying distanced and safer. Combined with other measures such as the use of masks, sanitizing work surfaces, handwashing, contained student cohort groups, indoor air filtration, and more, the use of the outdoors for learning and play should be a meaningful part of any reopening plan.  

These organizations and agencies not only recommend more funding for outdoor classrooms and play spaces, they also want them to be green, using trees, gardens, and naturally landscaped areas. The average primary school sits on five or more acres, while the average secondary school occupies 15 to 20 acres. And yet very few of the 100,000 public K-12 school in the U.S. fully utilize outdoor space for learning. To that end, the NAAEE has developed comprehensive reopening guidance that explains ways to use nature and the outdoors at schools for added safety. Doing so will have the added benefits of providing students with hands on opportunities to engage in environmental and science education and community service. Nearly every public K-12 school could benefit.

Funding for schools in the COVID-19 relief packages is being considered by both houses of Congress. Making better use of outdoor and nature-oriented spaces will be particularly helpful to older schools in lower income areas of the U.S. These schools often have less room indoors and would have difficulty maintaining distances.

The NAAEE guidance for school reopening has nationwide support and offers a framework for using outdoor spaces for learning and partnering with nonformal outdoor and environmental education programs for educational support that is complementary to other guidance efforts such as the illustrative site recommendations developed by Green Schoolyards America.   

The following national organizations joined NAAEE and hundreds of state and local organizations in asking Congress for this consideration: 

America Walks, American Camp Association, American Public Gardens Association, Association for Experiential Education, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies - Project WILD, Association of Nature Center Administrators, Association of Science and Technology Centers, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Blue Sky Funders Forum, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Campaign for Environmental Literacy, Children & Nature Network, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, Earth Day Network, Earth Force, EcoRise, FoodCorps, George B. Storer Foundation, Green Schools Alliance, Green Schools National Network, Inc., Green Schoolyards America, Institute for Learning Innovation, Life Lab, National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education, National Association for Interpretation, National Science Teaching Association, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Learning Initiative, Outdoors Empowered Network, Seed Your Future, Sierra Club, Teach for America, The Acorn Group, The Cloud Institute

Read the full letter here.

Comments

Sharing an article in The Daily Times about the letter! "The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, University of Tennessee and Pi Beta Phi Elementary School in Gatlinburg are among nearly 500 signers on a July 22 letter to congressional leaders organized by the North American Association of Environmental Education." https://www.thedailytimes.com/covid19/tremont-joins-call-for-congress-to-fund-school-outdoor-classroom-projects/article_111e4126-1958-5c5b-ad54-db1e2a5441b7.html