A coalition of 12 environmental organizations in New Mexico has initiated a new strategy to help get American kids back outdoors. The Environmental Alliance of New Mexico is renewing its call for a one-percent sales tax on televisions and video games to fund outdoor education programs. The tax idea, initiated by the Sierra Club, would raise an estimated $4 million a year, to fund programs aimed at giving school kids an outdoors education. "We believe it is such a nominal tax that consumers won't feel it too much, especially if they are educated about where that money goes," said Michael Casaus, the New Mexico youth representative of the Sierra Club.
New Mexico's State Parks Division estimates that although 80 percent of New Mexico's students live within a half-hour of a state park, less than 10 percent have ever visited one. The state's under funded Outdoor Classroom program helps students visit state parks and assists teachers with using the hands-on parks experience for science, math, and other academic skills.
Casaus told the New Mexican that the "Leave No Child Inside" movement has grown tremendously during the past year in the state. More than 40 organizations have asked for more outdoor education, including Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, the Hispano Round Table, the New Mexico Science Teachers Association, and health organizations.
Studies in the past five years have linked the increasing amount of time children spend watching television or playing video games to lower academic scores, obesity, and increased attention-deficit disorder. A study funded by the Sierra Club and carried out by the state of California found that one week of outdoor education had the same beneficial impact as six weeks of regular classroom time. According to state health and education reports, New Mexico students continue to lag behind their peers in most academic areas, and an increasing number are struggling with obesity.