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Minnesota Legislature one step closer to Outdoor School for All

A student jumps in the stream at Roots & Wings Forest School
Lorie Shaull
A student jumps in the stream at Roots & Wings Forest School

The Minnesota Senate’s Environment, Climate and Legacy Committee laid over the bill for possible inclusion in the Natural Resource omnibus

ST. PAUL — In the digital era, educators, families and lawmakers are encouraging kids to get outside.

The Outdoor School for All legislation was heard last week in the Minnesota Senate’s Environment, Climate and Legacy Committee and set aside for possible inclusion in the omnibus Natural Resources funding bill.

This was a crucial legislative step, putting the bill “in play” for possible passage during the supplemental budget session, supporters of the bill said.

The legislation would establish a grant program to give every Minnesota student the opportunity to attend an accredited, overnight outdoor school like Long Lake Conservation Center in Palisade, Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack or Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland.

Long Lake Manager Dave McMillan said this is a game changer for students, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status.

"The average middle school kid in the state of Minnesota spends 10 hours per day on screen time and less than 10 minutes a day outdoors," McMillan said. "That's just not a good recipe for the future. Kids really need to connect with the outdoors as part of this Minnesota outdoor ethic. The more people connect to the outdoors, the better."

A news release stated that a contingent of close to 50 people came out in support of the bill, including representatives for the state’s accredited overnight outdoor schools, teachers and members of the general public.

"It's such a big deal. So much about being a Minnesotan relates to this outdoor ethic: sitting by the campfire, listening to loons call, canoeing, fishing and hunting, birding and listening to John Latimer and learning from him every Tuesday," McMillan said.

"That's a really a big part of what it means to be a Minnesotan."