Environmental literacy is defined by the No Oregon Child Left Inside Act as “an individuals understanding, skills and motivation to make responsible decisions that consider his or her relationships to natural systems, communities and future generations.”
The stories of nature as told by animal tracks, bird songs and rain clouds are everywhere, from inner city canyons to wild mountain tops. The art and science of reading nature's stories was developed by the first people, it kept them alive. The clouds spelled out when to take shelter and the birds called out movements of prey. Today, schools focus on language and numbers, and environmental literacy is a niche subject for the farmer, scientist, naturalist, fisher or hunter. This is changing.
Numerous studies indicate that health and happiness are tied to playing and learning in a healthy outdoor environment. In 2009, as a measure of commitment towards protecting our natural heritage for years to come, the State of Oregon passed the No Oregon Child Left Inside Act, (HB2544), to ensure that "Oregon students become lifelong stewards of their environment and community; are willing and able to exercise the rights and responsibilities of environmental citizenship; choose to interact frequently with the outdoor environment; have multifaceted knowledge of our relationship to the environment and its resources; and are prepared to address challenges and make sound decisions for our future.
“By far the best way to experience nature is not to travel long distances or to visit exotic places, but to simply sit. Nature seems to love people who sit patiently and quietly, and it is then, and only then that creation will put on a grand show. Most of my best experiences with the animal world have been during the times I have been sitting, patiently waiting. It was then, in the stillness, externally and internally, that the animals would come around. In fact, I can see and experience more sitting for an hour than most people can hiking all day." - Tom Brown Jr., in Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children