Policy Update

Engaging with Nature Improves Well-being



NCEL Point of Contact

Dylan McDowell
Executive Director


New research from Oregon State University demonstrates the importance of nature-oriented experiences on a person’s overall life satisfaction. The study analyzed 13 metrics connecting well-being and engaging with the natural environment, specifically with subjective measures like community activities, access to wild resources, and trust in policymakers. Eleven of the 13 metrics studied had a positive correlation with life satisfaction, demonstrating a relationship between happiness and outdoor recreation. The study also found that believing natural resources are well managed closely correlated with high satisfaction. More information on the study is available here.

States have taken steps to encourage environmental education and get kids outdoors. Maryland implemented an environmental literacy high school graduation requirement, California developed model K-12 environmental education curriculum, Oregon requires a week of outdoor school for all 5th or 6th grade students, and Washington requires integrating environmental education into other subject areas. Nevada currently has a bill this session that would allow students in 5th grade to access state parks for free, and more states are considering other environmental education measures.


  • NCEL Fact Sheet on environmental education
  • FAQ about environmental education and literacy
  • Case studies of California, Maryland, and Oregon’s environmental education efforts
  • new report revealed that outdoor recreation spending equals $887 billion per year and provides 7.6 million jobs.