Fact Sheet

Outdoor Education



NCEL Point of Contact

Grant Gliniecki
Outdoor Policy Coordinator



Outdoor education policies can promote resilience in children, including increased confidence, attention, and reductions in disruptive behavior. Outdoor education gets children outside, reducing fear and anxiety about environmental issues and increasing their sense of personal responsibility for their future and community.

Key Points

Key Point 1

Outdoor education can improve childhood health by reducing nearsightedness, reducing vitamin deficiencies, and increasing both childhood and lifelong physical activity. (National Library of Medicine)

Key Point 2

Outdoor education can improve academic outcomes by increasing academic achievement, school readiness, social and emotional learning, and reducing disruptive behavior. (University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point)

Key Point 3

Outdoor education can build appreciation for local & rural heritage through immersion in time-honored outdoor industries, activities, and community resources. (University of Maine)

The content of this resource was developed in partnership with the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE).

Policy Options

  • Outdoor Preschool Licensing: Licensing can support small businesses and nonprofits, increase access for low-income children, improve safety, and make child care centers competitive for federal & grant funding. Washington S.B.5151, Oregon H.B.2717, Maryland H.B.525 license or pilot licensing outdoor child care centers. 
  • Outdoor School For All: Outdoor learning grant programs can increase access to outdoor opportunities, especially for rural, small, and/or low-income communities. Georgia’s (S.R.203) outdoor learning committee created an outdoor learning grant program; Maine (L.D.1817) and Washington (H.B.2078) created outdoor learning grant programs for schools. 
  • Outdoor Education in Curriculum: New Hampshire S.B.266, New Jersey A.5313, and New Mexico S.B.289 create opportunities for outdoor education in state curriculum. Georgia S.B.202 would establish an outdoor education pilot program to understand state need for  outdoor facilities and curriculum.
  • Green Schools: In addition to up to $64 per square foot in cost savings, efficient (‘green’) schools offer real-world learning opportunities that promote outdoor learning. Maryland S.B.383/H.B.531 increases the number of green schools and annually evaluates the program’s cost effectiveness; Maine (L.D.612) established a Green Schools Coordinator.


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE)

KAEE connects and empowers a wide network of educators, school administrators, and elected officials around Kentucky on environmental education.

Go to resource
Outdoor Engagement - NCEL

NCEL's webpage on improving outdoor engagement. Includes relevant facts and policies.

Go to resource

Empower State Environmental Champions

Your donation funds the fight for equitable actions that protect the environment and our health.