Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“No Child Left Inside”: Ramapo Planting Seeds of Environmental Education

By Lauren Haag

Ramapo College and other organizations come together annually to put on a program of environmental education for interested students from second grade through high school. On June 9 the 12th annual Ramapo River Day at the Ramapo Reservation will be held.

Ramapo River Day is sponsored by the Ramapo College faculty, Trout Unlimited, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  It is an opportunity for students to observe and interact with nature, form an appreciation for and build a better understanding of its condition and our place within nature.

"The need for environmental education has never been greater," the Baltimore Sun noted in an editorial on Oct 24, 2011. "Every day, the country seems to be facing new and difficult choices touching on environmental issues, ranging from how to meet energy needs to how to deal with toxic materials that might pollute our air, water or soil. The next generation will only face more difficult decisions as the Earth's population grows (it is predicted to reach 7 billion this month) but its natural resources do not.”

A hot topic in education is the new “No Child Left Inside” Act in Maryland. The act involves an environmental literacy component to the core curriculum which must be meant by the educators in each school district. The criteria necessary to meet the new requirement, however, is up to the school district itself. With school funding being cut in various ways, the addition of this Act allows school to request more money to enact the new policy as well as other education endeavors. State congressmen in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Rhode Island are also pushing the Act. From an economic standpoint, politicians are also interested in the new curriculum standard because it is a form of “green” jobs, which can open up new employment opportunities as well.

The “No Child Left Inside” Act will be moving toward the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, there are concerns about teaching certain ideas in the classroom. “Even raising the possibility that schoolchildren might be taught about climate change and greenhouse gases raises the hackles of some who would apparently prefer students be left in the dark on this vital subject,” says the Baltimore Sun.

Ramapo College’s Ramapo River Day and the Ramapo Meadowlands Environment Center in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, are two areas the college is involved in aimed at educating students about environmental issues and importance. The Meadowlands Environment Center brings in groups of students from kindergarten to high school and exposes them to different environmentally friendly and informative activities for a low cost to the school systems they’re coming from.

If the “No Child Left Inside” Act sprouts into New Jersey, Ramapo College has already been at work on its roots.

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