Lawmakers introduce bill to teach students Minnesota’s outdoor traditions

Lamere Family celebrate Minnesota's fishing opener
Lamere Family celebrate Minnesota's fishing opener(Northern News Now)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 2:15 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - New proposals are already in the works for next year’s legislative session.

One of the bills recently introduced focuses on learning outdoors.

The purpose of the Minnesota Outdoor School bill is to give every student in Minnesota the opportunity to learn how to hunt, fish, explore nature, and preserve Minnesota’s outdoor traditions.

The bill is already gaining bipartisan support.

Democratic Senator Grant Hauschild of Hermantown is one of the authors of the bill.

In addition, Republican Representative Roger Skraba is offering his support.

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, located on the North Shore, is one of five nature-based learning centers in the state.

This bill would fully fund a three-day, two-night nature immersive experience, which is designed for every 4th through 8th grade student in Minnesota

Wolf Ridge says only 30% of Minnesota students are able to access these types of outdoor learning experiences.

However, that number drops even lower for children of color and low income.

The Minnesota Outdoor School bill would also provide state dollars to help close that disparity gap.

“This should be accessible for all, every child rural, urban, and suburban deserves and really needs this opportunity to connect with the outdoors and nature to find that respite and renewal,” says Peter Smerud, Executive Director of Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.

Smerud has been with Wolf Ridge for more than 35 years.

He says this concept was inspired during the pandemic when it became clear that people wanted to return to the outdoors.

Experts also point to the mental, social, and emotional benefits of being outside.

“Kids spend ten times more time on the screen and it’s easier now in this day and age and to feel safer to enable our children to be inside to learn, and what this is doing is to trying to reverse that trend,” states Smerud.

This bill would be a choice for families, not a mandate.

It would also help secure funds to pay for students to take part and pay for teachers and staff.

The Minnesota Outdoor School bill will be reintroduced next year and will be a part of the 2024 supplemental budget session.

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