All posts by alyssacharland

Action on ECHO, OAK Education Pillar, and other news

Outdoor Alliance for Kids

OAK October 2014 Newsletter

OAK ECHO Across America Webinar

ECHO ToolkitOn October 6, OAK’s State and Local Action team lead a webinar on OAK’s ECHO (Every Child Healthy Outdoors) Across Americainitiative.  32 participants joined us for the webinar to learn about the initiative and how to utilize the ECHO Across America Toolkit.

Interested in joining OAK’s State and Local Action team to advocate for ECHO Across America? Contact Alyssa today!

Missed the webinar? A recording of the webinar is now available on OAK’s website.


Action on ECHO 

ECHO Across Albuquerque:

OAK through Conservation Legacy has teamed up with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s new urban wildlife refuge, Valle de Oro to pilot ECHO Across America in Albuquerque. US Fish & Wildlife Service provided $25,000 to support this initiative. An AmeriCorps VISTA will work full-time for one year to coordinate community efforts to facilitate activities in the ECHO Toolkit and document the lessons learned.

Boy playing tagNatural Leaders trained on ECHO Across America Toolkit:

The Children & Nature Network trained diverse, young leaders at their 3rd annual Natural Leaders Network Legacy Camp from July 20-25 at the USFW National Conservation Training Center. Three Natural Leaders from the Place Matters Project were trained to lead an ECHO assessment in their communities (Chicago, Baltimore and Cuyahoga) to discuss strategies with leaders on actions to get kids active outdoors.

ECHO Across America presented at NAAEE Conference:

Alliance for Childhood, National Wildlife Federation and North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) conducted a joint workshop on OAK and the ECHO Across America initiative at the 43rd NAAEE Conference in Ottawa, Canada. 40 participants attended the workshop to learn more on ECHO!

Thanks Alliance for Childhood, Children & Nature Network, Conservation Legacy, NAAEE,NWF, the Place Matters Project, and Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge for helping OAK get ECHO Across America!


 OAK Education Pillar

OAK Education PillarEducation, one of OAK’s three policy pillars, supports initiatives that provide children and youth with opportunities to learn about — and in — the great outdoors. Through OAK’s education pillar goals, OAK has taken a position to support:

Learn more about OAK’s Education pillar, and contact Alyssa to join OAK’s National Policy Action Team to get involved in developing and implementing OAK’s policy priorities.


OAK Girl OutsideWarm Welcome to OAK’s Newest Members

We are delighted to share that several new members have joined OAK’s membership.

Welcome: American Forests, Discover Outdoors Foundation,Hipcamp, and Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation.


 More than S’mores   

The Girl Scouts Research Institute just released a new report, More Than S’mores: Successes and Surprises in Girl Scouts’ Outdoor Experiences (2014) that found that girl significantly benefit from time spent outdoors. The report highlights that girls who regularly spend time outdoors surpass their peers in environmental stewardship, more readily seek challenges, and are better problem solvers —all important leadership traits!

Read more about the benefit of outdoor experiences for girls.


Share your stories

OAK White House PhotoOne of the key takeaways from OAK’s Annual Membership Meeting is that members want to know more about other members events, activities, success stories and lessons learned so that we can better work together to get kids outdoors!  

OAK’s monthly newsletter, blog and social media accounts are a great way to share your organization’s experiences with getting kids outdoors with other OAK members.

Share your stories with OAK today!


OAK Upcoming Events Calendar

November 6-8, 2014 Outdoors Empowered Network’s National Summit

Is your organization hosting a conference or event that you would like featured on OAK’s event calendar? Submit your request now!


 Help Us Grow OAK

Do you know another business or organization that share’s OAK’s mission to expand the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors? Encourage them to become a member and refer them to our Join OAK page!

OAK Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day, ECHO Webinar and other news

Outdoor Alliance for Kids

OAK September 2014 Newsletter

OAK Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day – September 8-9, 2014

OAK Advocacy Day 2014OAK’s Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, DC was a huge success! OAK members traveled from across the country to attend the meeting to share ideas and discuss how best to advance OAK’s goals. We were fortunate to have in attendance members from the FICOR (Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation) working group to lead a session on shaping an action plan with OAK that will result in more children and youth outdoors. We look forward to turning all the great ideas generated by our members into action.

The passion and commitment you shared during our meeting was overwhelming and I am so thankful to each and every one of you for bringing your energy and ideas to the table. It is because of the collective work and collaborative nature of this group that more and more kids and youth will have opportunities to improve their health by getting outdoors.    – Jackie Ostfeld of the Sierra Club and OAK’s Chair

During the OAK membership meeting, OAK co-founder and steering committee member REI announced another $30,000 commitment to advance OAK’s overarching goals. Thank you, REI!

On September 9th, OAK members took on Capital Hill and participated in 20 meetings with members of Congress and their staff to discuss a suite of bills to get youth active outdoors.  For a complete list of policy positions, take a look at OAK’s lobby leave behind, which covers Active Transportation and No Child Left Inside, Healthy Kids Outdoors, and Public Lands Service Corps.  Thanks to all of OAK members who participated and to everyone who signed onto OAK’s legislative agenda.


  SAVE THE DATE: ECHO Across America Toolkit Webinar 

OAK Go Week Collage

Just Launched! OAK’s ECHO (Every Child Healthy Outdoors) Across America Toolkit. OAK’s ECHO Across America Toolkit provides a series of resources and templates to:

  • Convene a meeting of leaders of organizations in your state or city,
  • Conduct an assessment of your state or city’s existing children, youth and families and the outdoors policies and initiatives,
  • Set goals for policies that your governor or mayor can adopt,
  • Launch a campaign to get your governor or mayor working on this policy agenda.

The goal of OAK’s ECHO Across America initiative is to bring state and local leaders together to launch a comprehensive multi-sector plan to get more kids and families outdoors.

Join us for a webinar on Monday, October 6th from 3:00pm – 4:30pm ET, where members of OAK will present the toolkit, share local success stories and discuss ways in which you and/or your organization can lead or get involved with ECHO in your city/state.  Please use this link to register for the webinar on October 6th!

Please help us get the word out by sharing this announcement with colleagues and coalitions with whom you work!


Active Transportation Options Provide Youth and Families Access to Safe Connections to the Outdoors

OAK Girl BikingNearly three-out-of-four adolescents do not currently get the recommended amount of aerobic exercise and strength training each week and studies have also found that building bike and pedestrian trails reduces health care costs associated with physical inactivity. For every dollar invested in building these trails, nearly $3 in medical cost savings may be achieved. 

All Americans, particularly children, youth, and those who have no other independent means of mobility should have access to transportation options that are safe, accessible, connected to parks and public lands, and promote physical activities such as biking and walking. Supporting these goals when designing transportation infrastructure is critical to creating more livable and active communities, and improving public health. 

MAP-21 is scheduled to expire at the end of May 2015. Reauthorization of MAP-21 provides a critical opportunity to strengthen our investments in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. 

Specifically, OAK supports a reauthorization of MAP-21 that: 

  • Maintains funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).
  • Provides more control of TAP funding to local communities.
  • Allows an 80/20 matches across all TAP projects instead of to each individual project.

To further support the reauthorization positions, OAK supports the following legislation:

  • Safe Streets Act [H.R. 2468 and S. 2004]
  • New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act [H.R. 3978]

Read more about OAK’s position on active transportation and other policies to get kids and youth outdoors. 


Bring Nature Play to Every Community

OAK Nature PlayThe National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative releasedNature Play & Learning Places: Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature, an illustrated guide for bringing nature play areas to children in every community. The guide explains how to plan, design, and manage nature play areas, so kids can connect with nature at everyday places like parks, schools, and childcare centers. 

Most children’s playgrounds are metal, plastic, concrete and devoid of nature. These guidelines show how to create a new type of play area with natural materials (Trees! Flowers!) so children and families have an integrated experience with wildlife and nature everywhere in their community. Two chapters are devoted to the management, maintenance, and risk management of this type of community space.   

Decoding the human genome was impressive. The internet has been transformative. Big data are amazing. But a child playing in the woods? That simple, time-honored image is at once magical, and powerful and inspiring.   –  Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr. Ph., from the Forward to Nature Play and Learning Places

To download and read the full text of the guidelines, visit www.natureplayandlearning.org, and please share the resource with your networks.


Register Today – Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day 

OAK IMBA TKMBD

International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and their members around the world are excited to celebrate the eleventh-annual Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day (TKMBD) on Saturday, October 4, 2014. The event offers a grassroots celebration of play on two wheels. Events range in size and scope from community-wide events to neighborhood outings hosted by a couple of families.

Registration is open if you would like to have your event featured on the TKMBD calendar, map and receive a care kit with bike plates, stickers, snacks and more.

To learn more about TKMBD, visit IMBA’s event website.


OAK Nature Play 2ICYMI OAK Members Have Been Blogging

Nature Play Coming to Every Community by Allen Cooper, National Wildlife Federation

Keys to Keeping Your Outdoor Classroom by Susan Wirth, Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation

Want to contribute to OAK’s blog or social media platforms? We want to hear from you. Submit your request now!

Are you missing OAK’s blogs when they are posted? Be sure to subscribe to follow OAK’s blog today! 


OAK Upcoming Events Calendar

September 16-18, 2014 Wilderness Week
September 22, 2014 Partnership for 21CSC Meeting
September 27, 2014 ATC’s Family Hiking Day
September 27, 2014 National Public Lands Day
October 4, 2014 IMBA’s National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day
October 8-11, 2014 43rd NAAEE Conference

Is your organization hosting a conference or event that you would like featured on OAK’s event calendar? Submit your request now!


Help Us Grow OAK

Do you know another business or organization that share’s OAK’s mission to expand the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors?

Encourage them to become a member and refer them to our Join OAK page

Join us for OAK’s ECHO Across America launch webinar!

Outdoor Alliance for Kids

Mark your calendar: Monday, October 6, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM ET

Please join the Outdoors Alliance for Kids for the launching of our new Every Child Healthy Outdoors (ECHO) Across America Toolkit.

OAK’s ECHO Across America Toolkit provides a suite of resources to advance opportunities to connect children, youth and families with the outdoors at the state and local level. The goal of OAK’s ECHO Across America initiative is to bring state and local leaders together to launch a comprehensive multi-sector plan to get more kids and families outdoors. The toolkit contains templates to convene a meeting of leaders of organizations in your state or city, conduct an assessment of your state or city’s existing children, youth and families and the outdoors policies and initiatives, set goals for policies that your governor or mayor can adopt, and launch a campaign to get your governor or mayor working on this policy agenda.

Please mark your calendar to participate in the ECHO Across America webinar on Monday, October 6, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM ET, where members of OAK will present the toolkit, share local success stories, and highlight different ways in which you and/or your organization can lead or get involved with ECHO in your city or state.

Help us get the word out and invite your colleagues, coalition partners, affiliates and other members of your network to join the webinar. 

Register today at http://sc.org/OAK-ECHO-Webinar!

Keys to Keeping Your Outdoor Classroom Growing

OAK guest blog by Susan Wirth, Outreach Director with Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation

originally published by Natural Start Alliance

Photo by Nature Explore

Connecting children with nature has a myriad of benefits that are receiving national attention. Research tells us that children who spend time in nature are more creative, less stressed, better able to concentrate, physically more active … and the list goes on. Because of this growing body of evidence, many schools, early childhood centers, and other programs serving children are striving to create and maintain nature-filled outdoor spaces for children.

Researching ways to support whole-child learning and the role of learning environments was the original focus of Dimensions Education Research Foundation. As our study pointed to the critical role of nature-filled environments, Dimensions began researching how children learn with nature. Our partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to create the Nature Explore program was formed and we have spent over a decade working with organizations to bring more nature to children’s daily lives through our workshops, outdoor classroom design process, and natural materials.

Over those years of designing and supporting Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, we have seen sites with thriving outdoor classrooms and also seen some outdoor classroom sites that were clearly struggling. As a research organization, that prompted us to ask a number of questions: How do you keep people excited about utilizing and maintaining these nature-based learning spaces? How can these spaces be more sustainable? Can we identify characteristics that the thriving outdoor classrooms have in common?

Those questions led Dimensions Foundation to conduct a two-year, national outdoor classroom sustainability study. Our researchers purposefully picked a mix of sites from diverse locations representing various types of organizations including schools, early childhood programs, and nature centers. Results of our sustainability study showed the positive impact of Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, especially when they weave together the connections between the child, supportive adults, and the environment. Once the research was analyzed, six indicators emerged as key characteristics of thriving, growing, and sustainable outdoor classrooms.

Photo by Nature Explore

1. Integrate Missions

Integrate nature and outdoor discovery play into the philosophy, program goals, and mission of the organization. When the outdoor classroom was seen as an integral program component and when that philosophy was shared with educators, staff, parents, and other stakeholders, it became a foundation from which the team could work. Many of the successful sites found the outdoor classroom to be a differentiator that led families to select their program or organization.

2. Structure Leadership

Successful sites were those that had created a process, from the beginning, for supportive, shared leadership and care of the classroom that was not reliant on just one person. The decision-making process was clearly established … including a system for evaluation and modification of the space, materials, and experiences. Staff and families were also informed and involved.

Photo by Nature Explore3. Inspire Staff

3. Inspire Staff

Sites that made staff development a priority and regularly provided training to engage and motivate staff to incorporate nature into their daily programming with children had much more robust outdoor classrooms than those who did not. Staff trainings included shared expectations for safety, ways to document children’s learning outdoors, and ideas and support for rising above challenges. Many successful sites engaged staff by encouraging them to work in groups using individual staff’s unique interests and skills as they related to the outdoor classroom.

A number of sites talked about the importance of sharing successes in keeping staff involved and inspired. Sustaining the outdoor classroom takes hard work and commitment. Taking time to share stories and celebrate children’s accomplishments, teachers’ insights, and new discoveries emerged as being important for on-going staff engagement.

4. Involve Families

Successful outdoor classroom sites involved families often in the planning, creation, and maintenance processes that were created and used consistently. Family members were surveyed for interests and skills they might have in creating or helping to maintain the outdoor classroom. The thriving sites worked hard to help families understand the value of children learning with nature and provided simple tools, like the Nature Explore Families’ Club, and ideas that supported parent-child-nature engagement at home. As a result, many sites reported shifts in parents’ attitudes and actions. Families were making lifestyle changes in which frequent interactions with nature became a priority at home. As Vicki Bohling Phillipi, Licensed Parent Educator at Forest Lake Family Center in Forest Lake, Minnesota, which has a thriving Nature Explore Classroom, said, “Parents long for permission to opt out of the hectic programming of life and just spend some time without an agenda. They need to see how this can happen in their already frenzied and over-programmed lives. Get them to actually step foot on the space and see that the Nature Explore Classroom is a place where fun and meaningful learning takes place. Help them experience the benefits of spending time with their children outdoors themselves. They need to re-light their own candle before they can do it for someone else.”

Photo by Nature Explore

Some sites began building family engagement through simple things such as having parents pick up children in the outdoor classroom at the end of the day so they could see their children engaged in new ways outdoors, hosting school or group events in the outdoor classroom, or starting a family nature club. Keeping families informed about what was currently happening in the outdoor classroom as part of regular program communication was also important in keeping families engaged and involved.

5. Build Community

Sites reported that, although it takes work, they found tremendous benefits from partnerships that they were able to build among education, non-profit, corporate, and public-sector individuals and organizations to help create and maintain their nature-based outdoor classrooms. Many local and regional organizations include community greening as part of their mission, and successful classroom sites were able to connect and partner with groups who could support them with funding, volunteers, trees, and plant materials. One example came from Melissa Stenger, Assistant Principal at Beard School in Chicago, Illinois, who said, “Considerable effort is made to ensure that Beard’s outdoor classroom remains a thriving, beautiful space for exploration and learning year round; shared responsibility with partners allows this to come to fruition. During periods of non-attendance, school families and staff members voluntarily rotate the responsibility of watering and weeding to ensure that the plants and garden are cared for.”

Successful sites not only connected with supportive community partners, they also provided orientation for volunteers and found ways to recognize and celebrate their volunteers and partners. These efforts resulted in on-going collaboration and support.

Photo by Nature Explore6. Foster Caretaking

6. Foster Caretaking

Dr. Wayne Dyer writes, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” The thriving outdoor classrooms reported that they framed the on-going maintenance of the outdoor classroom as an opportunity, not a problem. These sites established regular maintenance schedules and involved children, educators, families, and even community members in caretaking activities on a regular basis when possible. In addition, regular replenishment of frequently used materials, and on-going maintenance considerations were factored into their annual budget.

Effective, thoughtful design of the outdoor classroom was also a critical part of caretaking. Good design, incorporating durable materials and low-maintenance native plants, has a big impact on the amount of maintenance the space will require from the very start.

Photo by Nature Explore

Keeping your outdoor classroom growing does take intentionality and effort but the rewards for your whole program are significant. Moreover, the experiences young children have in these spaces can transform their lives. More in-depth information from the sustainability study, as well as real-world examples from our Certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, can be found in the book, Keeping it Growing – Sustaining Your Outdoor Classroom (Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, 2012).

About the Author

Susan Wirth has close to thirty years in the education field working with children and families.  Susan currently serves as Outreach Director with Dimensions Educational Research Foundationand the Arbor Day Foundation. Her work focuses on the collaborative Nature Explore program to help reconnect young children with the natural world.  She has authored articles in NAEYC’s Young Children magazine and Head Start’s Children and Families magazine.  She has presented at the National Association for the Education of Young Children national annual conferences and Professional Development Institutes, been a keynote presenter for National Science Teachers Association (CESI/NSTA) and many state AEYC groups, and also has spoken at Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), North American Association for Enviornmental Education (NAAEE), and National Head Start Conferences. She was part of the NAAEE team that wrote the nationally accepted Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence and serves on the Natural Start Alliance Advisory Board.

Nature Play Coming to Every Community

 OAK member guest blog by Allen Cooper, from National Wildlife Federation

originally published in Wildlife Promise

Every parent who has ever watched a child play in nature has cause to rejoice. NWF’s guide Nature Play & Learning Places: Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature shows how to design and manage nature play areas and bring them to children in every community.

Cougar Climber_OREGON PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT

One of the nature play areas featured in the guide is at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, a nature play area designed around a wildlife habitat theme.  The play area is a quarter-mile loop of adventure pods. Children can climb a tree, growl like a bear, hide out in a cougar’s den, weave a bird’s nest, and look for tracks. “From the beginning of the design process Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wanted this to be a nature inspired space for kids,” said Michelle Mathis, designer of the nature play area and a contributor to the guide. “So often we are asking families to drive to a park, hike to look at the park’s beautiful scenery, then walk back (while leaving no trace). One of the main goals of the design was to create opportunities for sensory engagement with nature. We wanted to create a lasting bond between the kids and the park.”

A Chance for Kids to Reconnect Nature

Nature Play & Learning Places is a project of the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at the College of Design, North Carolina State University. The guidelines draw from principal author Robin Moore’s extensive landscape design experience, case studies of 12 existing nature play areas across the country, and the contributions from the members of a national steering committee and a technical advisory committee, which consisted of representatives from more than 20 national organizations.

The project was funded by the US Forest Service. Children spend almost 40 hours a week on digital devices, and half the time outdoors than they did 20 years ago.  Nature play areas are an innovative way to reconnect kids with nature and build a lifelong bond with wildlife. “Nature play and learning places are an innovative and fun way to connect families with our public lands,” said Fran Mainella, former director of the National Park Service and a visiting scholar at Clemson University. “They can help us improve children’s health and learning and encourage appreciation for wildlife and natural systems.”

For a free download of the guide visit http://online.nwf.org/natureplayandlearning.

Every Child Healthy Outdoors (ECHO) Across America, Secretary Jewell Announces Award for Wildlife Refuge, and Other News

Outdoor Alliance for Kids

OAK August 2014 Newsletter

SAVE THE DATE: Every Child Healthy Outdoors (ECHO) Across America Toolkit Webinar 

We are so pleased to announce the launching of OAK’s Every Child Healthy Outdoors (ECHO) Across America Toolkit.

OAK Kids OutsideOAK’s ECHO Across America Toolkit  provides a series of resources and templates to convene a meeting of leaders of organizations in your state or city, conduct an assessment of your state or city’s existing children, youth and families and the outdoors policies and initiatives, set goals for policies that your governor or mayor can adopt, and launch a campaign to get your governor or mayor working on this policy agenda. The goal of OAK’s ECHO Across America initiative is to bring state and local leaders together to launch a comprehensive multi-sector plan to get more kids and families outdoors.

Please join us for a webinar on Monday, October 6th from 3:00pm – 4:30pm ET, where members of OAK will present the toolkit and share local success stories. The webinar will also discuss ways in which you and/or your organization can lead or get involved with ECHO in your city/state. 

Please save the date to join us for this webinar and invite colleagues, affiliates or members of your network who may also be interested in learning about ECHO. More information will be included in OAK’s September Newsletter, stay tuned!


CDC’s 2014 State Indicator Report on Physical Activity is now available

OAK Go Week 2The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released the 2014 State Indicator Report on Physical Activity.

According to the report, only 27.1% of youth in the United States are meeting the national physical aerobic activity guidelines, which call for 60 minutes of moderate- or vigorous- intensity physical activity daily. In some states, like Texas, less than one-fifth of young people are meeting these guidelines.

Unfortunately, these numbers are less surprising when coupled with the fact that most Americans simply do not live within walking distance of a park. According to the state by state report, only 39.2% of the U.S. population lives within a half mile of a park. (If you want to see how your city fares on park access, look no further than the Trust for Public Land’s Park Score, which ranks cities on park acreage, access, investments and other metrics.) The proximity and safety of parks are increasingly being recognized as a contributing factor to the overall health of a community, yet many of our children don’t have basic neighborhood access.

Help us turn these statistics around and attend OAK’s webinar to learn how you and your organization can help OAK get Every Child Healthy Outdoors (ECHO) Across America. Read more in the latest blog by OAK’s Chair, Jackie Ostfeld.

CDC Guidelines Youth and Children Physical Activity
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Indicator Report on Physical Activity, 2014. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014.

OAK receives letter of support from the National League of Cities 

OAK recently received a nice note from Mayor Chris Coleman of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, Utah, the President and President-Elect of the National League of Cities, in response to our recent letter introducing ECHO Across America.  

“On behalf of the National League of Cities (NLC), we thank you for reaching out on the critical issue of connecting children to nature and the great outdoors. We applaud the leadership and work of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) and appreciate the deep commitment that its members have made to lift up and advance this important agenda.”

OAK Mayor ColemanThank you to all OAK members who signed on to support ECHO. If your organization is interested in getting more involved with OAK’s work on ECHO, please consider joining OAK and the State and Local Action Team list-serve.  And remember to save the date for our October 6th webinar on ECHO Across America.


Outdoor Recreation is fun, but is also providing jobs and income

The Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) just released a new report, Outdoor Recreation: Jobs and Income that highlights the economic value of preserving America’s great outdoors. America’s public parks are important for connecting youth, children and families with the great outdoors, but it’s also a multi-billion dollar industry. According to the report, in 2012, “Outdoor recreationists made more than 938 million visits to Federal lands and waterways, spending $51 billion and supporting 880,000 jobs.” 


Secretary Jewell awards Southern California Refuge $1M to Engage Urban Communities

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex will receive $1 million in funding to engage youth and urban communities in outdoor recreation and conservation. The complex’s proposal to create the “SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project” is the first to win funding through a national competition launched earlier this year by US Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. According to Ashe, “It will create new and tangible opportunities for urban residents, particularly youth, to experience the outdoors and everything the natural world has to offer in a real, hands-on way”  

Congratulations to the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex!


ICYMI OAK Members Have Been Blogging

OAK Hipcamp photoCamping Made Easy, OAK Member Guest Blog by Eric Bach and Irene Lam from Hipcamp

Time to Create an ECHO Across America: Every Child Healthy Outdoors, OAK Member Guest Blog by Jackie Ostfeld of the Sierra Club

Are you missing OAK’s blogs when they are posted? Be sure to subscribe to follow OAK’s blog today!

 


OAK Upcoming Events Calendar

September 16-18, 2014 Wilderness Week
September 27, 2014 ATC’s Family Hiking Day
September 27, 2014 National Public Lands Day
October 4, 2014 IMBA’s National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

Help Us Grow OAK

Do you know another business or organization that share’s OAK’s mission to expand the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors? Encourage them to become a member and refer them to our Join OAK page!

 

Camping Made Easy

OAK Member Guest Blog by Eric Bach and Irene Lam from Hipcamp

Camping should be simple. If I want to get outside with my family next weekend and camp by the ocean, I should be able to. However, after spending hours of searching online to answer these questions, we realized it really isn’t so easy.

hipcamp oak1

This was the inspiration for Hipcamp. We wanted to be able to answer basic questions such as, “where can I go camping next weekend with my dog and take a shower?” Or, “Where can I go camping with my family in a redwood forest where we can go fishing nearby?” Right now there are no places to find this information with real-time availability. With this in mind, Hipcamp has embarked on a journey to catalog all of the parks (starting in the gorgeous California, where we are based), and provide users with one simple, easy-to-use interface where they can find park overviews, detailed descriptions of available activities for families and kids, insider tips, park history, and real time availability for camping; it really is camping made easy.

By making this process more accessible and compiling the fragmented data into a “one-stop shop,” we save users time. Instead of sitting in front of the screen with 50 different tabs open trying to book a campsite for Yosemite, users can visit Hipcamp, see what campsites and activities are available, get a feel for the park through the written content and photography, and reserve their spot, all under ten minutes. This is beneficial for families who want to take their kids camping, but might not have the time to plan a trip or have never camped before.

We’re also a great resource for discovering new family vacation spots. Instead of heading to the same place every year, you can be inspired to try new, awesome parks that you otherwise might never hear about. We want families to have fun exploring together, to find all the necessary accommodations and exciting adventures they dream about.

hipcamp oak2

We think it is important for people, especially children, to get outside to connect with nature and their loved ones. In this digital age it is becoming harder and harder to unplug from it all. At Hipcamp, we use technology to get people away from technology, something that is becoming increasingly important. It may be difficult to turn off your phone and ignore your email for a few days, but it’s necessary to recharge your own batteries every now and then. Unplugging also sets a positive example for kids– they need to realize that their worlds do not have to revolve around technology either. Kids should feel as excited about the outdoors as they do about getting a new high score on 2048!

By reaching out to local organizations and nonprofits, we are spreading the word about the necessity of reconnecting with nature. We recently signed on as supporters of OAK member National Wildlife Federation‘s “Be Out There” campaign to get more kids outdoors. We are also celebrating July as Park and Recreation month with another OAK member, the National Recreation and Park Association, by volunteering in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

hipcamp oak3

We imagine a world where children, youth and families can have a positive connection with nature and that’s why we joined OAK. We believe in the power of being unplugged in the outdoors, and we understand the necessity of conserving natural land. It’s our mission to ensure that the next generation is healthier and happier.

OAK Celebrates Great Outdoors America Week and other News

OAK july e-newsletter


OAK July Newsletter

OAK Celebrates Great Outdoors America Week

June 23 -26, 2014 marked the annual Great Outdoors America Week, where 100s of advocates descended upon Washington, DC, to remind our nation’s leaders of the importance of America’s great outdoors. OAK celebrated GO Week by hosting our second annual  Youth and America’s Great Outdoors Event. Dozens of OAK members joined over 400 youth for a festival along the Anacostia River at Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Maryland.

Gina Quote 2photo collage 2 Big thanks to Minneapolis-based adventure travel organization and OAK member, Wilderness Inquiry for running the show. Thanks to them and dozens of OAK members, there was no shortage of activities to keep the 400+ youth active and engaged. Stations included canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, tent pitching, falconry, along with an array of educational demonstrations and games all centered around nature and the outdoors.

OAK Go Week AwardeesDuring OAK’s Youth event, leaders from across the country weighed in on the importance of getting kids outdoors. Speakers included: Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy; National League of Cities President and Mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota Chris Coleman; Chief of Staff for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Gwen Keyes Fleming; Interior Secretary Jewell’s Senior Advisor David Jayo; Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Peter Rogoff; Executive Director of the Sierra Club Foundation Peter Martin; Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry Greg Lais; and The Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams.

A huge thanks to all OAK members and friends who pitched in, including American Camp AssociationAmerican ForestsAmerican Heart AssociationAmerican Hiking SocietyAnacostia Watershed SocietyAppalachian Trail Conservancy,Children & Nature NetworkCity of Saint Paul Office of the MayorCity Parks AllianceThe Corps NetworkEarth Conservation CorpsInternational Mountain Biking AssociationIzaak Walton League of AmericaNational League of Cities,National Park Service,  National Park TrustNational Parks Conservation AssociationNational Recreation and Park AssociationNOLS Expedition DenaliNorth American Association for Environmental EducationThe Outdoor FoundationPatuxent Research RefugePrince George’s County Department of Environmental ResourcesPublic Lands Service CoalitionRails-to-Trails Conservancy,  REIRiver Management SocietySierra ClubSierra Club FoundationUrban Waters Federal PartnershipUS Army Corps of EngineersUS Bureau of Land ManagementUS Environmental Protection AgencyUS Fish and Wildlife ServiceUS Department of the InteriorUS Department of TransportationWilderness InquiryThe Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA.

Mayor Coleman Quote

OAK Go Week CanoeingGreat Outdoors America Week wrapped up on June 25 at a Congressional reception at the historic Mott House, where The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club and other conservation groups, including several OAK partner members, honored three members of Congress for their conservation achievements: Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ), George Miller (D-CA) and Jim Moran (D-VA).

It was the perfect way to cap off a successful week of activities including: OAK’s Youth and America’s Great Outdoors Event; the launch of the 50 for 50 Campaign: a series of 50 conservation corps projects in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act; Capitol Hill briefing on building diverse nature-smart leaders led by Children & Nature Network; and a screening of NOLS and Expedition Denali’s film about the first African American team to climb Alaska’s Denali. 

Read more about GO Week and OAK’s Youth event on OAK’s BlogThe Corp Network, the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.


OAK supports Urban Waters Federal Partnership

OAK Urban Waters at EventThe Urban Waters Federal Partnership is a partnership of 14 federal agencies being led by EPA, DOI and USFS. The Partnership is working to engage urban populations in restoring their rivers and surrounding neighborhoods, improving access for water recreation, and helping create a network of parks and greenspaces connecting downtown cores with suburban and rural areas, creating opportunities for improving health and wellness. The Partnership provides a powerful means of reaching into our cities and metropolitan areas to engage all residents—especially youth—in conservation and stewardship of nature where they live, work, and play. 

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership participated in OAK’s Youth and America’s Great Outdoors Event. This event was just the start of ongoing collaboration between OAK and the partnership. 


OAK Weighs in on Capitol Hill

Thanks to all the OAK members who signed onto support OAK’s recent policy positions. In the last few months, we’ve urged Congress to support appropriations for programs that get kids outdoors and to support the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, the No Child Left Inside Act, the Public Lands Service Corps Act and active transportation.

Sierra Club issued an action alert on the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act to its membersFeel free to use this action alert or create your own to weigh in with your members of Congress!


ICYMI OAK Members Have Been Blogging

OAK NRPA Kid CampingKick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the Curb: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month, OAK member guest blog by Jackie Ostfeld, Sierra Club

5 Tips for Camping with Kids, OAK member guest blog by Jessica Culverhouse, National Recreation and Park Association

Thriving in the Great Outdoors, Guest blog co-authored by Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association and Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club

Organizations Come Together to Celebrate Kids and Youth in the Great Outdoors, OAK Member Guest Blog by Tia Watkins, Sierra Club

Are you missing OAK’s blogs when they are posted? Be sure to subscribe to follow OAK’s blog today!


Help Us Grow OAK

Do you know another business or organization that share’s OAK’s mission to expand the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors? Encourage them to become a member and refer them to our Join OAK page!

Organizations Come Together to Celebrate Kids and Youth in the Great Outdoors

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) Hosts an Event as part of Great Outdoors America Week

OAK Member Guest Blog by Tia Watkins, Sierra Club

During my second full week as a Sierra Club intern I was lucky enough to participate in Great Outdoors America Week , a week dedicated to raising awareness around outdoor issues by advocating for public lands and connecting people with nature to members of Congress and the Administration. I had a great time educating leaders on Capitol Hill, especially spreading the word about the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act !  I met wonderful volunteers from Sierra Club chapters across the country and became acquainted with some of our nation’s leaders in outdoor recreation, education and health. Though I loved every action-packed second of Great Outdoors America Week, my favorite event hands down was the Outdoors Alliance for Kids’ Youth and America’s Great Outdoors event.

OAK youth event, on June 25th, was held along the Anacostia River at Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Maryland. The scenic Bladensburg Waterfront Park, maintained by the Prince George’s County Department of Park and recreation, provided an ideal backdrop for the days’ activities.

Special Thanks to Prince George's County Parks and Recreation for use of this phenomenal urban park space.
Special Thanks to Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation for use of this phenomenal urban park space.

Spearheaded by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) and Minneapolis-based adventure travel organization and OAK partner member, Wilderness Inquiry  the event served to spread a message of ensuring outdoor opportunities for children, youth, and families across America. Starting at nine in the morning with the arrival of the first bus of children from a local YMCA, Wilderness inquiry and several other OAK partner organizations began running a variety of activity stations.

There was no shortage of activities to keep the 400 plus guests of all ages thoroughly entertained throughout the morning. Stations included canoeing along the river, rock climbing, mountain biking, tent pitching along with an array of educational demonstrations and games all centered around nature and the outdoors.

A diverse group of organizations including OAK members and friends took part in the event not only by running activity stations but by also bringing kids and coming out in support. Participating organizations included the American Camp Association, American Forests, American Heart Association, American Hiking Society, Anacostia Watershed Society, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, Children & Nature Network, City of Saint Paul Office of the Mayor, City Parks Alliance, The Corps Network, Earth Conservation Corps, International Mountain Biking Association, Izaak Walton League of America, National League of Cities, National Park ServiceNational Park Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Recreation and Park Association, NOLS Expedition Denali, North American Association for Environmental Education, The North Face, The Outdoor Foundation, Patuxent Research Refuge, Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources,Public Lands Service Coalition, Rails-to-Trails ConservancyREI, River Management Society, Sierra Club, Sierra Club Foundation, Urban Waters Partnership,US Army Corps of Engineers, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior, US Department of TransportationWilderness Inquiry, The Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA. The participation of every single one of these groups was vital to the success of the OAK Youth and America’s Great Outdoors event.

Wilderness Inquiry outfitted over 400 people with PFDs and paddles to get ready to explore the river in 24' Voyageur canoes
Wilderness Inquiry outfitted over 400 people with PFDs and paddles to get ready to explore the river in 24′ Voyageur canoes
Members of NOLS Expedition Denali teach young campers how to pitch a tent
Members of NOLS Expedition Denali teach young campers how to pitch a tent
A group of kids 'walks' the AT with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in a fun and interactive game
A group of kids ‘walks’ the AT with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in a fun and interactive game
Young environmentalists learn about local wilderness with maps and wildlife trading cards provided by the National Parks Conservation Association
Young environmentalists learn about local wilderness with maps and wildlife trading cards provided by the National Parks Conservation Association
A group of young learners get up-close and personal with some macro invertebrate samples and create their own macros with members of Creek Freaks, an outdoor education program offered by the Izaak Walton League of America
A group of young learners get up-close and personal with some macro invertebrate samples and create their own macros with members of Creek Freaks, an outdoor education program offered by the Izaak Walton League of America
High School students from Sierra Club’s Baltimore ICO group play a game while sharing their knowledge of aquatic animals with an educator from the Bureau of Land Management. Looks like a blast!
High School students from Sierra Club’s Baltimore ICO group play a game while sharing their knowledge of aquatic animals with an educator from the Bureau of Land Management. Looks like a blast!
REI brought along a 26 foot mobile rock climbing wall for youth to show off their skills
REI brought along a 26 foot mobile rock climbing wall for youth to show off their skills
Head of Prince George’s County's Community Outreach Promoting Empowerment Section, Deborah Weller leads an interactive demonstration on how community activities affect the watershed and what residents can do to help our local waterways.
Head of Prince George’s County’s Community Outreach Promoting Empowerment Section, Deborah Weller leads an interactive demonstration on how community activities affect the watershed and what residents can do to help our local waterways.
Two very special guests attended the OAK youth event, Mr. Hoots and Skye! A Eurasian eagle-owl and a red-tailed hawk brought by Earth Conservation Corps, a local group dedicated to protecting the Anacostia and the habitat it provides for beautiful animals like these.
Two very special guests attended the OAK youth event, Mr. Hoots and Skye! A Eurasian eagle-owl and a red-tailed hawk brought by Earth Conservation Corps, a local group dedicated to protecting the Anacostia and the habitat it provides for beautiful animals like these.
National Park Trust's Buddy Bison welcomes canoers back to shore. Photo courtesy of National Park Trust.
National Park Trust’s Buddy Bison welcomes canoers back to shore. Photo courtesy of National Park Trust.

Believe it or not the 400 kids and youth in attendance were not the only ones enjoying Wednesday’s festivities. Invited leaders in outdoor recreation and education shared in the fun as well. Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, US Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy and Director of Sierra Club’s “Our Wild America” campaign Dan Chu all took a ride down the river in Voyageur canoes.

Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy and Sierra Club’s Dan Chu get set to embark with some friends from Sierra Club’s Baltimore ICO group
Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy and Sierra Club’s Dan Chu get set to embark with some friends from Sierra Club’s Baltimore ICO group
Mayor of Saint Paul Chris Coleman mans the bow of his Voyageur canoe with his excited team from Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Summer Programs
Mayor of Saint Paul Chris Coleman mans the bow of his Voyageur canoe with his excited team from Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Summer Programs

Around eleven o’clock while activities were in full swing, adults gathered for an awards ceremony while the children continued to get their nature on. Great Outdoors America Week Champion Awards were presented to US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)Jo-Ellen Darcy, and National League of Cities President and Mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota Chris Coleman for their tireless work in providing children, youth and families with the opportunities to connect with nature and the outdoors.

Administrator McCarthy’s Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming was happy to accept the award on her behalf. Likewise, Secretary Jewell’s Senior Advisor David Jayo spoke about the importance of outdoor experiences while accepting the award on Secretary Jewell’s behalf. Additional speakers for the ceremony included US Department of Transportation Under Secretary for Policy Peter Rogoff, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Foundation Peter Martin, Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry Greg Lais and The Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams.

Jamie Williams of The Wilderness Society presents Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy with an award commemorating her work. Darcy oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, the nation's largest federal provider of outdoor and water-based recreation.

Jamie Williams of The Wilderness Society presents Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy with an award commemorating her work. Darcy oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, the nation’s largest federal provider of outdoor and water-based recreation.

"[The America’s Great Outdoors initiative] is beneficial for so many reasons; health, community, ecosystem restoration and most importantly the happiness and well-being of our children" – Assistant. Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy

“[The America’s Great Outdoors initiative] is beneficial for so many reasons; health, community, ecosystem restoration and most importantly the happiness and well-being of our children” – Assistant. Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy

Greg Lais of Wilderness Inquiry presents an award to Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who is also President of the National League of Cities. A recent partnership between the Department of the Interior, National League of Cities and the YMCA of the USA aims to connect urban youth to the outdoors.
Greg Lais of Wilderness Inquiry presents an award to Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who is also President of the National League of Cities. A recent partnership between the Department of the Interior, National League of Cities and the YMCA of the USA aims to connect urban youth to the outdoors.
"Outdoor experiences are important opportunities for youth to develop social and emotional skills, build relationships and develop an appreciation and respect for nature" – Mayor of Saint Paul Chris Coleman
“Outdoor experiences are important opportunities for youth to develop social and emotional skills, build relationships and develop an appreciation and respect for nature” – Mayor of Saint Paul Chris Coleman
“Walking and bicycling are great ways to get to work, get in shape, or just have fun” – US Department of Transportation  Acting Under Secretary for Policy Peter Rogoff
“Walking and bicycling are great ways to get to work, get in shape, or just have fun” – US Department of Transportation
Acting Under Secretary for Policy Peter Rogoff
"It’s fitting that during this 50th anniversary year of the Wilderness Act we’re celebrating nature, both wild and near." –     Sierra Club Foundation Executive Director Peter Martin
“It’s fitting that during this 50th anniversary year of the Wilderness Act we’re celebrating nature, both wild and near.” – Sierra Club Foundation Executive Director Peter Martin
"The Interior Department is working to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors in order to help our nation’s public lands and to develop the next generation of outdoor stewards."– Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Interior David Jayo
“The Interior Department is working to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors in order to help our nation’s public lands and to develop the next generation of outdoor stewards.”– Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Interior David Jayo
“The Environmental Protection Agency looks forward to continuing our work to improve air quality and protect our nation’s waterways, so all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors." – Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming
“The Environmental Protection Agency looks forward to continuing our work to improve air quality and protect our nation’s waterways, so all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.” – Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming
Wednesday's event was in support of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a partnership of federal organizations aimed at connecting urban communities with their waterways. Thanks to the Urban Waters team for their work!
Wednesday’s event was in support of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a partnership of federal organizations aimed at connecting urban communities with their waterways. Thanks to the Urban Waters team for their work!

By noon, the awards ceremony had come to a close and children were beginning to load back onto buses. Gauging by smiles alone, the event was a tremendous success. The rain forecast for the day had a change of heart and allowed for a beautiful day of outdoor activity and fun! Everything came together so perfectly with the help of wonderful organizations and invited speakers. The OAK Youth and America’s Great Outdoors event would not have been possible without members of the OAK Steering Committee, OAK fellow Alyssa Charland and Wilderness Inquiry and its highly-qualified staff.

OAK Chair and Vice Chair, Jackie Ostfeld and Paul Sanford preparing for the arrival of the first 400 plus kids and youth
OAK Chair and Vice Chair, Jackie Ostfeld and Paul Sanford preparing for the arrival of the first 400 plus kids and youth
Huge thanks to Chad Dayton (here with our friend Buddy Bison) and his team from wilderness Inquiry for organizing such a fantastic event!
Huge thanks to Chad Dayton (here with our friend Buddy Bison) and his team from wilderness Inquiry for organizing such a fantastic event!

We hope to see you at next year’s Great Outdoors America Week!

Our Great Outdoors America Week Champions showing off their awards with speakers and event organizers.  Top row (left to right): Department of Transportation Acting Under Secretary of Policy Peter Rogoff, Wilderness Inquiry Director of Programs Chad Dayton, The Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams, Mayor of Saint Paul Chris Coleman, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior David Jayo, Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, OAK Co-Vice Chair Paul Sanford, and Wilderness Inquiry Executive Director Greg Lais. Botton row (left to right): Sierra Club Foundation Executive Director Peter Martin, OAK's State and Local Action Team Co-Leader Katie Clarke Adamson, and OAK Chair Jackie Ostfeld.
Our Great Outdoors America Week Champions showing off their awards with speakers and event organizers.
Top row (left to right): Department of Transportation Acting Under Secretary of Policy Peter Rogoff, Wilderness Inquiry Director of Programs Chad Dayton, The Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams, Mayor of Saint Paul Chris Coleman, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior David Jayo, Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, OAK Co-Vice Chair Paul Sanford, and Wilderness Inquiry Executive Director Greg Lais. Botton row (left to right): Sierra Club Foundation Executive Director Peter Martin, OAK’s State and Local Action Team Co-Leader Katie Clarke Adamson, and OAK Chair Jackie Ostfeld.

Check out another great recap of OAK’s 2nd Annual Youth and America’s Great Outdoors event on Storify!

Kick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the Curb: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month

OAK member guest blog by Jackie Ostfeld, Nearby Nature Director, Our Wild America Campaign, Sierra Club

Originally published in Sierra Club’s “Lay of the Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just for kicks, I googled fear of outside this morning. My search turned up 187 million results. For comparison’s sake, I then googled fear of death and fear of the unknown, fears I thought were fairly common. To my surprise, there were only 84.7 and 73.5 million hits, respectively, and when combined, still fewer results than my first search. While the findings of my quick internet inquiry will probably never hit the annals of any reputable science journal, there is a growing body of evidence that America is becoming increasingly sedentary and spending a lot of time indoors (you can find the facts on the Children & Nature Network’s site).

June is Great Outdoors Month, and there is no better time to kick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the curb. So, let me share ten ways to get outside and celebrate the outdoors this month.

1. Get Out-ing. Did you know that the Sierra Club, America’s largest grassroots conservation organization, offers outings throughout the country (and the world)? Sierra Club’s 7,500+ trained volunteers are leading outdoor activities this June (and all year round) for beginners and the most experienced hikers. Find your local Sierra Club chapter or group and join an outing that matches your interests. Being a newly trained and certified Sierra Club outings leader myself, I can personally vouch for the program.

2. On a rainy day, read President Barack Obama’s Great Outdoors Month Proclamation for some inspiration. Here’s an excerpt: “This month, as we enjoy the natural splendor of our Nation, let us stay true to a uniquely American idea — that each of us has an equal stake in the land around us, and an equal responsibility to protect it. Together, let us ensure our children and grandchildren will be able to look upon our lands with the same sense of wonder as all the generations that came before.”

3. Hit the trail with the American Hiking Society. June 7th is National Trails Day®, a time to explore and enjoy America’s trail system. Enjoy a stroll along a city trail or take on a section of the Appalachian Trail. There is no trail too big or small that isn’t worth exploring.

4. Celebrate African Americans in National Parks Day to honor the rich history and contributions African Americans have made to our National Park System. This year,Bay Area residents are joining Outdoor Afro and the National Park Service to pay homage to the famed Buffalo Soldiers by retracing their historic journey from the Presidio of San Francisco to Yosemite National Park. In 1903, units of the 9th United States Cavalry made the 280-mile trek over thirteen days from the Presidio to Yosemite. Buffalo Soldiers spent the summer in the park protecting it against poaching and grazing and blazing trails still used today.

5. June 14th is National Get Outdoors Day. Grab your family or a friend – try to find someone who doesn’t spend a whole lot of time outdoors – and show him or her why the outdoors is so special to you. Start simple at a nearby park close-to-home or go visit a state or national park, forest or refuge and celebrate America’s public lands.

6. Better yet, take your dad, and make it a weekend. June 15th is Father’s Day and there is no better way to celebrate then a weekend outdoors. Skip the wrapping paper and give your dad a gift that he really wants – quality time with you!

7. Pack a lunch and grab your family and friends for a picnic on June 18th for International Picnic Day. Getting outdoors doesn’t have to mean climbing Mount Everest. Spending time outdoors can be as simple as grabbing a blanket and some grub and getting to your local neighborhood park for a picnic.

8. During Great Outdoors America Week, June 23-26th, join Sierra ClubThe Wilderness Society, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and many other groups in Washington, DC, to let your leaders know how much you care about America’s Great Outdoors. Great Outdoors America Week raises awareness around outdoors issues by bringing together hundreds of diverse organizations and activists to meet with lawmakers and administrators to advocate for our outdoor way-of-life. Can’t make it to Washington? Consider meeting with your local decision-makers, or sending a letter to your representatives, to let them know how much you value our public lands.

9. Close out the month by participating in the Great American Backyard Campout(hosted by the National Wildlife Federation) where thousands of people across the nation will spend the night of June 28th outdoors, in a tent or sleeping under the stars. And remember, America’s public lands belong to all of us, so even if you don’t have a backyard right outside your door (and many of us don’t), you can camp in a park near you!

10. Oh, and plan ahead – because opportunities to get outdoors don’t stop at the end of June. Parks and Recreation Month AKA July is right around the corner.