Policy Opportunities

Outdoor Learning Opportunities and Environments

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Protect schools from liability associated with after-hours use of school grounds by the community, similar to WI 895.523 (2011)
  • Support student health and wellness through school gardens and green school yards, similar to the one passed by the Washington DC City Council in 2010.
  • Establish funding for culturally relevant school gardens grant programs, similar to CA AB 1634 (2002) or OR HB2579.
  • Designate a living school yard or green school ground month, similar to CA ACR 128 (2014).
  • Emerging idea: Incorporate outdoor learning environments so that playgrounds, outdoor classrooms and labs, and school gardens are part of the definition of school grounds to support their development and maintenance through infrastructure funding.
  • Emerging idea: Require student and community engagement in the process of (re) designing playgrounds, parks, and public spaces.

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Provide every student with an opportunity and funding to attend a week of residential outdoor school, similar to OR Outdoor School for All.
  • License outdoor early learning and child care programs or remove “brick and mortar” building requirements, similar to WA SB 5357.
  • Emerging idea: Fund school districts in developing free gear libraries for use by students and classes. Or, offer tax incentives to outdoor gear companies who donate gear for such libraries.
  • Emerging idea: Incentivize or require early childhood care centers to enhance learning and development through outdoor engagement.

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Provide funding for school garden education programs and funds to purchase healthy, local food, similar to OR HB 2579.
  • Emerging idea: Incentivize or require school to begin with outdoor movement/exercise.
  • Emerging idea: Set district or state-wide standards for mandatory outdoor time.
  • Emerging idea: Provide school funding for rain and/or winter gear to make sure all students can go outside during most weather conditions.
  • Emerging idea: District policies could support outdoor engagement as part of school wellness plans, which currently focus on nutrition and might mention recess time (in minutes). More robust plans could include details on outdoor engagement

Access and Transportation

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Establish an Outdoor Equity Fund that supports micro-grants to help local government, Indian communities, and nonprofits run youth outdoor engagement programs for low-income youth, families, and communities, similar to the one NM established as part of the Office of Outdoor Recreation CASE STUDY.
  • Support environmental education as part of other funding for natural and cultural resources, similar to how Iowa included the grants available through the  Conservation Education Program (CEP) in their Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program. See fact sheet here. 
  • Emerging idea: Support parents with options for out of school time learning experiences, including outdoor education. Similar to the Out of School Time Funding Ballot Initiative that is being discussed in CO.

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Extend the National Park Service’s Every Kid Outdoors pass, which offers fourth graders and their families free entry into national park sites, to state or regional park systems, similar to NV AB 385 and a bill currently being considered in TX.
  • Emerging idea: Offer free state-parks pass for check-out at the public libraries, similar to Colorado’s “Check out State Parks” where any library card holder can check out a backpack from the local library that includes a park pass and an assortment of gear and books designed to encourage outdoor engagement.
  • Emerging idea: Provide free access to zoos, parks, and botanical gardens to specific age groups or on specific days to encourage kids and their families to try to new activities and visit new outdoor places.

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Assure federal funding for Safer Routes to School is well administered by your Department of Transportation (DOT). See good examples from AZ, CA, NJ, and IL.
  • Improve policies to make sure bicyclists and pedestrians are considered in transportation and school infrastructure planning, design, construction, and maintenance, per guidance from the Safer Routes Partnership. A fee-based mechanisms can support funding for safer streets and school yards.
  • Emerging idea: Support (through funding or declarations) a focus on near-by outdoor experiences. Rather than prioritize out of town experiences (multi-day outdoor experiences), which can often be the first thing to be cut when budgets are tight, explore opportunities to introduce equitable access to nearby nature experiences.
  • Emerging idea: Remove barriers or support costs associated with transportation to support outdoor engagement both in school and outside school.

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Allow active military personnel and veterans to receive a free year-round parks pass, similar to MN Statutes, section 85.053, subdivision 8 and 10)
  • Establish a grant program to support nature-based therapy programs for veterans, similar to bills introduced in NY and OR in 2019.

Systematic Environmental Literacy and Education

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Calls for an increase in the number of certified Green Schools and provides support for environmental learning and transportation to and from outdoor environmental learning experiences, similar to Maryland’s Green Schools Act SB 0662 and HB 01366 (2019).
  • Integrate systemic environmental literacy into K-12 schools through the state standards development process, similar to the Environmental Literacy Initiative. See Case Study.
  • Support state efforts (through funding, declaration, or other support) to complete in the federal Green Ribbon Schools program, which reduces environmental impacts of schools, improves health and wellness, and increases environmental and sustainability literacy, similar to MA Green Ribbon Schools and WI Green and Healthy Schools.
  • Emerging Idea: Consider outdoor experiences and environmental education as core subjects and it receives similar assessment and emphasis as math and reading.

Consider a bill, executive order, or other policy to:

  • Support (financially, or through preferential sourcing for stewardship activities) conservation corps, youth corps, and similar models, similar to Great Outdoors Colorado Youth Corps Support.
  • Emerging idea: Funding or grant programs that support career counselors and other educators who support career decision-making in gaining knowledge about outdoor and natural resources focused careers.
  • Funding from states for conservation corps, green corps, and other similar organizations.