Policies That Connect Kids and Nature

Reconnecting children to nature will take comprehensive policy action on the federal, state, and local levels. Since its inception in 1936, National Wildlife Federation has worked to develop public policies that protect the environment and connect children, youth, and families with the great outdoors.

Learn more about our federal, state, and local campaigns to connect children to nature through public policy by clicking on the links below.

Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools funded through the transportation bill. The program has been designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools. Visit the Safe Routes to School National Partnership for the latest information on funding and legislation and check out the National Center for Safe Routes to School for information on how to implement safe and successful strategies.

Children and the Outdoors State Action Plans

National Wildlife Federation is working with governors, legislators and state agency directors to develop state action plans to help connect children with the outdoors. The action plans identify resources and opportunities in multiple agencies—education, health, parks and wildlife, agriculture, and others—to strengthen and increase state programs to connect children with nature. State action plans have been developed in Maryland, and are underway in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. A number of governors or legislatures have enacted children’s outdoor bills of rights or other resolutions to call attention to the issue.

If you want to develop a “Children and the Outdoors” State Action Plan or Resolution for your state, download our Children and the Outdoors State Policy Solutions Guide.

See what other states have done:

Youth Outdoors

The Public Lands Service Corps Act (H.R. 1612 / S. 1442) was passed in the House on March 20th and is awaiting Senate action. This legislation supports youth service and employment on public lands that provides on-the-job training and education for young people, especially those from underserved communities.

The Youth in Natural Resources initiative at the Department of Interior is designed to reach and educate youth from all backgrounds about our nation’s lands, waters and heritage, while providing employment opportunities to youth to protect our resources and restore our environment. This program received a $20.5 million boost in funding for FY 2010.

Environmental Education

No Child Left Inside Act: The goal of the No Child Left Inside Act is to ensure that every student achieves a basic understanding of the environment. To do this, the No Child Left Inside Act provides incentives to state departments of education to create environmental literacy plans that promote environmental education in schools, develop standards for teaching the subject, and focus on teacher training and professional development. The legislation would be funded at $100 million a year and amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. You can support the No Child Left Inside Act by contacting your Members of Congress or joining the national No Child Left Inside Coalition.

National Environmental Education Act: Since 1990, the National Environmental Education Act at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided national leadership to increase environmental literacy throughout the United States. Since its creation, the Act has supported the Environmental Education and Training Partnership, the National Environmental Education Foundation, an environmental education grant program, National Public Lands Day, and other environmental education initiatives. The National Wildlife Federation and its partners are working to reauthorize this Act and increase funding levels. Visit EPA’s website to learn more about these environmental education programs.

Ocean, Coastal, and Watershed Education Act: The Ocean, Coastal, and Watershed Education Act (H.R. 3644) was passed in the House on March 19th and is awaiting Senate action. This legislation advances awareness and appreciation of coastal watersheds and emphasizes stewardship of critical marine resources. In addition, the legislation authorizes and strengthens both the Environmental Literacy Grants and Bay-Watershed Education and Training program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Visit NOAA’s website to learn more.

U.S. Forest Service Conservation Education Programs: The National Wildlife Federation is a strong supporter of the U.S. Forest Service’s Conservation Education program. The Conservation Education program is a vital component of the Forest Service, serving as a critical link between the people and their public lands. The program is committed to developing an environmentally literate citizenry to sustain the Nation’s forests and grasslands, public or private.

Ranger Rick Restores Recess

Ranger Rick wants you to help restore recess at your child's school! As many as thirty percent of elementary schools—nine million kids—do not have daily school recess. School recess can be a gateway experience to nature and should be a part of every elementary student’s daily routine, giving them an opportunity to go outside, play, see the sky, feel the sun, and watch for birds. Kids who have daily recess are more attentive in class and get more physical activity. That’s why the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends 20 minutes of school recess per day in addition to physical education, and why the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that "recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development."

The National Wildlife Federation and Ranger Rick want to bring recess back to the schoolyards. Join our campaign to make sure every child can go outside and play during the school day. Ways you can help include:

For change to happen, it must be supported on the local, state and national level. Government leaders and policy makers can do their part to ensure America’s childhood moves back outside.

Next Generation Science Standards Webinars

March 17, 2014: Next Generation Science Standards and Environmental Education. Presenters: ACHIEVE, National Science Teachers Association, State Education and the Environment Roundtable, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Next Generation Science Standards represent an unprecedented opportunity for the environmental and sustainability education community. They promise to dramatically change the focus and process of k-12 science education in the United States. The good news is that NGSS is strong on environmental content, much stronger than what is being taught now in the vast majority of schools throughout the nation. In this webinar four experts explain the development of the standards, their relevance to environmental education, and the challenges involved in implementation.


April 29, 2014: NGSS at the State Level. Presenters: National Research Council, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education and the Audubon Naturalist Society

This follow-up webinar focuses on opportunities at the state level—and how our organizations can partner with formal educators to aid the implementation of NGSS and advance the field of environmental education.


Download Audubon Naturalist Society presentation (PDF)

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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