Yampatika is hoping the U.S. Congress passes the No Child Left Inside Act, which would fund environmental education programs across the country. Above, Yampatika summer naturalist Kevin McGarity, left, holds out a leaf for Sam Kitchen to examine at the Environmental Learning Center at Legacy Ranch.

Photo by Scott Franz

Yampatika is hoping the U.S. Congress passes the No Child Left Inside Act, which would fund environmental education programs across the country. Above, Yampatika summer naturalist Kevin McGarity, left, holds out a leaf for Sam Kitchen to examine at the Environmental Learning Center at Legacy Ranch.

Routt County's Yampatika eyes federal funding

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— New legislation being considered by the U.S. Congress could be a boost for Yampatika’s environmental literacy pilot program in Steamboat Springs, the outdoor education group’s executive director said this week.

Sonja Macys said students in Routt County could benefit from the passage of the bipartisan No Child Left Inside Act reintroduced in Congress last week because it could help fund Yampatika’s environmental literacy program, which she hopes to expand to all Routt County schools this year.

If passed, the act would provide federal assistance to states to develop and carry out environmental literacy programs that aim to teach children the value of learning about the outdoors.

“Our community is very well poised to be one of the recipients for federal funding for our environmental literacy programs,” Macys said.

The act last was introduced in Congress in 2009 and aimed to distribute $100 million to states to develop environmental literacy programs, but it was not brought to a vote in the U.S. Senate. Macys attributed the act’s previous non-passage to a poor economic climate.

“It didn’t go anywhere at that time,” she said. “Our economy and other pressing issues took priority.”

The latest version does not have a price tag.

Macys said her organization is planning to extend its outdoor education program to Hayden and South Routt school districts whether federal funds become available.

She said Yampatika is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to raise the $20,000 the group said is necessary to expand the organization’s pilot program.

Yampatika has received $9,500 for its program from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board and Sleeping Giant Financial.

She said the program’s first year in Steamboat’s schools was a success because it introduced environmental education into the lesson plans of kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

“Our results and the feedback we got from teachers showed that this is something that’s needed in the community,” she said.

The program consisted of three sessions per grade level and began with a Yampatika naturalist introducing a nature topic in the classroom that the students would continue to learn about at Yampatika’s Environmental Learning Center at Legacy Ranch on U.S. Highway 40.

Katie Navin, the executive director of Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, which supports outdoor education groups across the state, said Colorado is working to develop an environmental education plan that will encourage students to spend more time learning outdoors.

“Environmental education right now is great in Colorado, and programs like Yampatika are doing incredible things,” she said. “Unfortunately, those programs are at a very grass-roots level. In order to make sure kids can access those programs, we need to break through a glass ceiling, and this (No Child Left Inside) Act would help do that.”

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