Bays and Lakes: We Can Help Our Kids Develop A Sense of Place

Lois CappsLast week the House Natural Resources Committee voted 22 to 13 to send an important new piece of legislation to the House floor.  It received strong support from the National Wildlife Federation, The Campaign for Environmental Literacy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others.  The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Lois Capps from California and has several dozen co-sponsors.

The bill, H.R. 3644, would authorize a five-year nationwiide education program designed to expose school children to the rivers, bays, estuaries and great lakes, near which they live.  The legislation is based on a the recognition, years ago, that a majority children grwoing up within the Chesapeake Bay watershed could easily make it to adulthood without ever having any meaningful educational connection to the Bay.  This spawned the Bay Watershed and Training Program or “BWET” — and many of the school and educator programs it has supported are so hands-on that students actually have a good chance of getting wet during their lessons.

By making this program nationwide in scope, school children in the San Francisco Bay region, the Puget Sound, The Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and many other critical coastal and marine areas can be exposed to meaningful watereshed experiences.  It may seem unthinkable that a child could grow up in Baltimore, for example, without ever visiting the Chesapeake or in Milwaukee without seeing the Lake Michigan, but, think again,   With today’s children spending six hours a day watching TV and playing video games and having less connection than ever to the outdoors, a educational program that connects them to the watersheds in which they live on is a critical need.   NWF testimony on the Bill.