Dear Audubon Member:

"Hope is the thing with feathers," wrote Emily Dickinson. I would add that hope includes fur, fins, branches, and all the other living parts of nature. We Auduboners love being outdoors, in nature. But more important, we want to awaken the wonder, knowledge, and hope of nature in others.

How can we do this? We start with our local Audubon Centers. We already have almost 50 of them, and we plan to establish 1,000 by the year 2020, serving one in every four schoolchildren each year.

Every child deserves the opportunity to connect with nature. I grew up on a family farm, with ample opportunity to roam around outdoors and discover nature. As a boy, E.O. Wilson was absorbed by the bugs in Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, which led him to become the world's preeminent biologist and a prominent voice for conservation. Most environmentalists I know trace their passion for nature back to their early experiences outdoors. Now we call it environmental education.

In today's concrete, computer- and television-screened world, it's much harder for children to connect with the hands-on feel of nature than it was a decade or two ago. But it's essential. Environmental education is more than just teaching facts and information. It's also about inspiring a love of nature, a personal bond with the outdoors that fosters a desire to protect the environment.

It's a big job, and Audubon Centers can't do it alone. We need local schools to be fully engaged with us in nature education. We need to reauthorize and strengthen the National Environmental Education Act, which provides training for teachers, science-based resources, and online information to schools around the country. Passed in 1990, the National Environmental Education Act is up for review in Congress this year. Audubon will be working hard to renew, update, and improve this important law. In particular, we want nature centers integrated into the act, so children will have a place where their books and lessons can come alive.

Almost everyone agrees that basic environmental literacy is essential for every citizen in the 21st century. At Audubon, we want to go further. We want to help families raise children who love the outdoors, who appreciate the beauty and wonders of nature, and who value the environment. To this end, a partnership between Audubon Centers and local schools is essential. The National Environmental Education Act helps make that partnership possible and also helps schools teach children about the environment.

If you can work with us to get this important law renewed, call 202-861-2242, extension 3003, or send an e-mail to jgoodwin@audubon.org.



John Flicker
National Audubon Society

© 2001  NASI

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