Presenting the OAK Tree Award to Senator Patty Murray

guest blog by Martin LeBlanc, Senior Vice President, External Affairs – Islandwood

One of the things I appreciate most about the children and nature movement is the broad-based, grassroots coalition of organizations that work together every day to provide children with opportunities to learn, play, and explore in the outdoors.

Whether the scope is coast-to-coast or within a community, groups like the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, The Y, NatureBridge, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, REI,  IslandWood, Washington Trails Association, and the National Park Service are committed to a common goal of expanding access to nature for kids.

The combined power of these organizations, agencies, and businesses is incredible.  I believe there is nothing we can’t accomplish through our collective efforts.  At the same time, we know we cannot do it alone.  That’s why we are so grateful to our elected leaders who have supported this critical movement.  President Obama has established clear priorities on youth and the outdoors, including Every Kid in a Park and Fresh Tracks. Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that created $1 million in grant funding for outdoor recreation and education programs in Washington State.

And, today, IslandWood, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and the Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative is honoring Senator Patty Murray with the first ever OAK Tree Award for her support of environmental education through the Every Child Succeeds Act.

Signed into law last December, and co-written by Senator Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Every Student Succeeds Act provides students across the country with hands-on, field-based learning experiences that promote STEM skills they will need to thrive in a 21st century economy while deepening their connection to the great outdoors.  It means environmental education is a core part of education rather than an optional activity that only some kids are able to enjoy. Every Student Succeeds shines a bright light on the importance of environmental education – and the fact that it resulted from a bi-partisan effort reinforces that this issue matters for all of us.

I’m very honored to be at REI’s flagship store in Seattle to honor Senator Murray with our friends from the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative, including  the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service – Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, NatureBridge, and Washington Trails Association. Thank you to Senator Murray and to all of our partners for tireless and selfless work to expand access to environmental education for our future leaders, educators, scientists, and stewards.

(originally posted on islandwood.org/about/blogs)