All posts by brennamuller

OUTDOORS ALLIANCE FOR KIDS LAUNCHES AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 30, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Washington, D.C., — The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced today that it will be launching an affiliate partnership with OAK members California Outdoor Engagement Coalition and the Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative.

The OAK affiliate partnership will help to connect state and local coalitions with OAK’s national initiatives and policy solutions, expanding a network of state, local and national organizations working to promote access to the outdoors for kids and families.

The new affiliate structure will enable OAK to help support solutions led by and for coalitions and impacted communities on the ground. OAK affiliates will also serve as an on-the-ground resource and model framework for fellow OAK members engaged in state and local efforts, providing relevant resources, best practices, and lessons learned.

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids’ work to increase equitable access and connect youth with the outdoors is growing,” said Brenna Muller, OAK Program Manager. “With local affiliates, our national network of organizations will be even more powerful and able to act not just on federal policy priorities, but also local and state initiatives.”

“The California Outdoor Engagement Coalition is honored to be a state affiliate of OAK. OAK is national model of leveraging partnerships to expand equitable access to the outdoors and the Coalition can learn a great deal from their approach to advocating for policies that impact millions of children and families every year,” said Jenny Mulholland-Beahrs, Director, California Outdoor Engagement Coalition.

“Members of the Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative are working together to foster the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Casey Andrews, Coordinator. “We are demonstrating success at decreasing barriers and increasing access to public lands for youth of all ages. OAK’s focus on the Every Kid in a Park program, along with their work to sustainably engage youth in upper grade levels, aligns well with our work. We are grateful for the opportunity to join OAK as an affiliate and look forward to this broader collaboration!”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

DETROIT KIDS NEED THE OUTDOORS

guest post by Mark Naida – originally appeared in The Detroit News. This story features Detroit Outdoors, a collaborative effort supported by Detroit Parks and Rec, The Kresge Foundation, and OAK members Sierra Club, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, and REI.

Living in an urban environment, Detroiters often don’t get the same opportunities to enjoy the outdoors as other Michiganians.

Photo- Jac Kyle - Courtesy
(Photo: Jac Kyle / Courtesy)

So they miss out on learning the value of conservation and on understanding the possibilities of careers in fields which preserve and maintain natural spaces. Public land is part of our natural heritage, and should be accessible by every American, even those who live in the big city.

Welcome to Scout Hollow, Detroit’s only campground.

Red-Tailed Hawks soar overhead and Monarch butterflies float on the wind. The Rouge River meanders through 17.4 acres of pristine green space incongruously outlined by I-96 and the Southfield Freeway. Untamed woods cover 12 acres and the the other 5 are maintained for camp sites.

Established in 1939 for Boy Scouts, the last troop broke camp 10 years ago and nature overtook the site.

When Garrett Dempsey, program manager of Detroit Outdoors, first saw the campground, the only thing distinguishing it from wilderness was a set of steps covered by a fallen tree and flagpole that rose from the tall grass.

“Nature had a lease,” says Dempsey. “No one had mown in 10 years.”

Dempsey and Jac Kyle, outdoor education coordinator for the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, put their energies toward the rehabilitation of the campground.

Private donations — a $200,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, $20,000 from the Sierra Club, and $10,000 from REI, an outdoor outfitter — paid for the renovation.

Scout Hollow offers everything a group could want for a campout, including a gear library that lends tents, cook kits, and rain protection..

“In an urban area, you can easily forget about nature,” Dempsey says. “It is important to foster a connection with it. With this place, we have been able to take down barriers to camping.”

The closest other campground to Detroit is the Highland recreation area in White Lake.

Camping can bring peace to an otherwise bustling urban environment.

“If you think of the use of technology in kids lives today,” Kyle says, “it is hard to go 24 hours without a phone. This is a space where you can interact and not just be on the phone or watching television. We hang out by a fire and cook dinner together.”

Scout Hollow offers the very experiences in nature that the Outdoor Adventure Center, a museum to nature on the Detroit Riverwalk, tries to recreate.

We felt there was a need for more presence to creatively engage the urban community with the outdoors,” says Ron Olson, chief of Parks and Recreation for the Michigan DNR, which runs the outdoor center. “We hatched the idea of an experiential center where people could come and learn about the rest of the state and the outdoors.”

But then what? Once kids are excited about nature, they need an outlet to cultivate that passion. And that’s what Scout Hollow aims to do.

Now attention is turning to Belle Isle, Detroit’s largest outdoor park.

Olson says that after hosting a few camping events on Belle isle, the DNR has begun to consider building a permanent campground on the island. But the project is well down a priority list that is first addressing neglected areas of the island.

“We still have a lot to do to bring the park back up to snuff,” Olson says.

The DNR should keep its focus on providing hands-on outdoor opportunities for Detroiters, particularly children.

It can be done without breaking the budget. Scout Hollow was rehabilitated on a tight budget and with limited resources.

And it’s allowed Detroiters to camp under the stars without leaving the city.

mnaida@detroitnews.com

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Welcomes 100th Member Organization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 20, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.org

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Welcomes 100th Member Organization

Washington, D.C., — The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) reached its 100-member milestone with the addition of GreenLatinos, a national coalition of Latino Environmental & Conservation Leaders, who joined the alliance in August, 2018.

OAK is also proud to welcome Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Pride Outside as new members of the alliance.

“The movement to ensure that all kids have access to the health benefits of getting outdoors is growing,” said Brenna Muller, Program Manager for the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “Together we will work toward a world where playing outdoors is part of every childhood.”

“We believe Latino communities have the right to live in environmentally healthy, just, and vibrant communities, this includes ensuring our children and families have access and the ability to enjoy the outdoors, whether it be their local community park or one of our national natural treasures such as the Grand Canyon,” said Mark Magana, President & CEO of GreenLatinos. “Joining the Outdoor Alliance for Kids will help us move closer to making this a reality.”

“We believe that when children have time outdoor observing and engaging with the natural world, it enhances their executive function, creativity, attention, social-emotional and physical well-being,” said Jean Rogers, Screen Time Program Manager at Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. “With mobile technology luring kids indoors, OAK’s work to protect and defend environments and programs for kids is essential. We look forward to collaborating on strategies to support families and children get more fresh air and immersion in the great outdoors!”

“We are committed to building LGBTQ community around the outdoors and boosting LGBTQ representation and inclusion outside,” said Hannah Malvin, founder of Pride Outside. “We support relevant, inclusive programming and policies that make LGBTQ youth feel welcome on public lands and in city parks.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

It’s Fresh Air Fitness Month!

Guest blog post by Marla Hollander, American Heart Association

What could be better than taking a Walk in Nature with your kids?

Thinking back on my childhood, my experience with nature as a kid was confined to the suburban neighborhood I grew up in including the neighborhood park, Grover’s Mill pond (yes, the infamous “War of the Worlds” 1938 Martian landing site) and the Jersey shore.  Not so shabby for nature connections. Climbing trees in the spring, skating on the pond in winter and swimming in the ocean all summer were all things I loved and just did. Fast forward a couple decades and I discovered that my hometown was also home to the D & R Canal state park, Sourland Mountain preserve and the Mountain Lakes Preserve, all providing incredible opportunities to get outdoors and move, yet I was unaware of their existence as a kid.  While we had the ability to access these incredible resources, my family didn’t know how or why to access them.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day, yet a report brief from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that only about half of kids meet that recommendation.  Additionally, a 2011 study in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that television viewing by young children has been associated with cognitive and speech delays, aggressive behavior, decreased academic performance, and obesity. The time that young children spend watching TV or using a computer or tablet has replaced the time spent on other activities like reading and active or imaginative play – and particularly outdoor play.

We need to change this script!  We need to help our kids get active.

AHA-blog-7.12.18
My kids canoeing in Lake Needwood, Maryland. Photo credit: Marla Hollander

Providing safe places to play and be physically active throughout every child’s day is critical to heart health and keeping kids healthy. Getting outdoors with one’s family is a great way to spend time together and model healthy behaviors and one of my favorite activities!

My real passion for being an active outdoors person was not tapped until my early adulthood when friends and travel introduced me to what I call the wild – places like Crater Lake in the Oregon and Cape Tribulation in Australia. Now, an avid hiker, I’ve lived in four states with my kids and with each relocation, we look for how we can get out moving and connecting with nature as a family.  In Sarasota, we loved kayaking the protected mangroves; in San Diego it was surfing and hiking Torrey Pines State Park; in Washington, DC we spend a lot of time exploring the local Rock Creek Trail system that meanders throughout the city. Many communities have natural resources within reach – but we need to look for them, expose our kids early and often, and make them safe and accessible. In doing so we can help ensure they are getting the physical activity they need, and I can’t think of a better way to get active and connected as a family.

Throughout the month of July, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, has been challenging everyone to get outdoors and get moving. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) supports and embraces this challenge and I am grateful to be a guest blogger for OAK connecting nature, health and kids.

Fresh Air Fitness Month is part of the association’s Healthy For Good™ movement, which inspires people everywhere to make lasting changes in their health and their lives, one small step at a time.

Marla Hollander resides in Kensington MD, is a mom of two middle school kids, and a staff member of Voices of Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to ensure all kids have access to healthy food, beverages and safe places to be physically active.  She also serves on OAK’s steering committee.

Release: Congress Acts to Protect Access to Parks for Kids and Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Contact:   April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Congress Acts to Protect Access to Parks for Kids and Families

Legislation encourages fourth graders to visit national parks and public lands

Washington, D.C.– Today, the Every Kid Outdoors Act passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee with unanimous, bipartisan approval. The Every Kid Outdoors Act would continue an existing program that ensures every fourth grade student in the U.S. has access and encouragement to visit national parks and public lands. The future of this program is uncertain and may end this year unless Congress acts to authorize it past 2018.

Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) Steering Committee Members issued the following statements:

“Every kid should have access to our national parks,” said Jackie Ostfeld, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Chair of OAK. “Today’s kids are spending less time outdoors than any generation in history. We need the Every Kid Outdoors Act to maintain our kids’ connection with nature, and to protect public health. Thank you to the House Natural Resources Committee for moving this legislation forward and making sure access and opportunities to play, learn, and work on our public lands are prioritized with so much else going on in Washington. With your continued support, we will pass the Every Kid Outdoors Act and ensure access to our national parks for the next generation.”

“Whether a family outing, a school trip or a day at camp, time spent outdoors helps kids develop a sense of belonging in nature and an appreciation of the importance of preserving our lands and water. Our national parks and public lands are unrivaled as spaces where kids can connect with nature and grow their love of the outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act will enable youth-serving organizations like the Y to create powerful community partnerships focused on ensuring all kids, regardless of their circumstances, can experience the wonder of these national treasures,” said Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA.

“Connecting young people to our National Parks and other public lands is a great way to ensure that kids are active, healthy, and happy,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy, The Wilderness Society and Vice Chair of OAK. “We need to do everything we can to connect kids to the great outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act is a key component of OAK’s comprehensive strategy for getting kids outside. The Wilderness Society applauds the House Natural Resources Committee for moving this bill forward.”

“Through our national Buddy Bison School Program, we have seen first hand the many benefits of the 4th grade federal park pass that would be continued through the Every Kid Outdoors Act. The pass has been an effective way to engage students and families across the country with our public lands and waters, many for the very first time,” stated, Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust.

“Parks play a critical role in teaching our nation’s youth about conservation and the importance of the outdoors,” said Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO. “Thank you to Congress for taking the first step to ensure every kid has access to our nation’s parks and the benefits they provide.”

“Alliance for Childhood is enthusiastic about the opportunities the Every Kid Outdoors Act will provide for fourth graders and their families. Together with our partners at Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we look forward to working with federal agencies to ensure all children’s healthy development, especially through outdoor, child-initiated play in our natural world,” said Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood.

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BACKGROUND:

The existing Every Kid in a Park program is a low-cost and popular public-private partnership that helps boost local economies while improving our children’s health and connections to nature. In the program’s first year, more than two million fourth graders downloaded the Every Kid pass. Over the first two years, nearly $5 million in private funding has been leveraged to support transportation costs for children from low-income schools across the United States.

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: MILITARY KIDS DELIVER POSTCARDS FROM 4th GRADERS TO SECRETARY ZINKE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 15, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Military Kids Deliver Postcards from 4th Graders to Secretary Ryan Zinke

Washington, DC — Today, 8 military kids and their families delivered postcards from over 1,000 fourth-graders across the nation to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Many of the postcards were hand-signed by children who have participated in the Every Kid in a Park program, which allows every child in the United States to visit their national parks for free in their fourth-grade year. The visit and postcard delivery was organized by National Park Trust and Blue Star Families.

Photo credit: National Park Trust 

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids also delivered 14,000 public comments asking the Interior Department to continue the Every Kid in a Park program, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of the 2017-18 school year unless the Secretary takes administrative action to continue it.

In response, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids Founder and Chair Jackie Ostfeld released the following statement:

“Thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program, every fourth grader in the United States has the chance to visit our nation’s treasured national parks and public lands. This highly successful program is ensuring more kids have a chance to connect with nature. That’s why over one thousand children, including many who have benefited from Every Kid in a Park directly, wrote Secretary Zinke a postcard about the value of spending time outdoors. I hope he will listen closely to their stories about the powerful impact that getting outdoors can have in a young person’s life, and act to continue the Every Kid in a Park program.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities, and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors.

A TIME TO UNPLUG: Get Ready for Screen-Free Week!

Guest blog by Rinny Yourman, JD – originally appeared on childrenandnaturenetwork.org.  OAK is a proud endorser of Screen-Free Week.

Imagine a week when children give their undivided attention to the natural world around them. With the exception of school and homework, they spend that week outdoors – hiking, biking, reading, exploring, gardening, collecting, stargazing, dreaming.

With not a smartphone in sight, they are intently focused on their surroundings – shifting clouds, myriad bird songs, velvety moss, scented peonies, foraged edible plants.

This magical week is real and rapidly approaching. It’s called Screen-Free Week and it takes place this year from April 30-May 6. During this annual, international event, children and families are encouraged to unplug from entertainment screens and instead enjoy a host of fun screen-free activities, including reading, playing, exercising, crafting – and, of course, gardening, exploring nature, and enjoying outdoor recreation.

There are many reasons to carve out a screen-free week during the school year.  2016 study by the nonprofit Common Sense Media found that teens consume an average of nearly nine hours of entertainment media daily, while tweens average nearly six hours – and those averages exclude screen time for school and homework.  A similar study of children aged eight and younger found an average of two and a quarter hours of entertainment screen use daily.

What impact does this excessive time with screens have on children?  The evidence is mounting that it’s taking a toll on their physical, emotional, and social health. The American Academy of Pediatrics citesincreased risks of obesity, sleep disturbances, depression, internet gaming disorder, reduced school performance, earlier initiation into a host of risky behaviors, and the potential for exposure to sex offenders and cyberbullying. Other research has found that teens’ smartphone and social media use are correlated with increased rates of unhappiness and depression. And that when increased screen time displaces human interaction, children’s ability to read social cues is impaired.

These alarm bells would be less compelling if it were easy for children to disconnect. However, former tech industry insiders are now warning of the ways that tech companies have made unplugging nearly impossible.  And children aren’t the only ones struggling to disconnect. In a Common Sense Media studyof parents of teens and tweens, screen media use by parents for non-work purposes averaged almost eight hours per day.

Screen-Free Week is a small yet effective antidote to much of this stress, giving growing minds and bodies a much-needed respite from the seductive pull of digital screens and the constant barrage of harmful marketing messages.  When families take the week off together, they find that the screen break promotes such deep family connection that the experience informs more thoughtful screen choices for the remainder of the year.

While the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood hosts Screen-Free Week, CCFC is only a clearinghouse of information and ideas.

Screen-Free Week is a dynamic grassroots movement where the real heroes are the thousands of parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, activists, and community leaders who prepare a week’s worth of screen-free events, from bicycle rodeos to book readings to picnics to crafts activities and much more.

They are the ones who infuse Screen-Free Week with heart and spirit. Knowing children as well as they do, they commit to this undertaking year after year because they recognize that Screen-Free Week is more engaging and festive when it is celebrated with others.

Thanks to all of this organizing effort, there is yet another unique benefit of Screen-Free Week: it gives children the time and opportunity to explore activities that are new to them. During Screen-Free Week, children discover a love of such activities as cooking, knitting, reading Harry Potter books, and volunteering. Our goal for 2018 is to firmly cement gardening, nature exploration, and outdoor recreation to this growing list of new interests.

We invite naturalists and park rangers, master gardeners and beekeepers, parks and nature centers to help spread the news that spending time in nature is the perfect screen-free activity. While there may not be sufficient time to organize formal Screen-Free Week activities this year, we know that nature centers and local, state, and national parks routinely schedule screen-free nature and outdoor activities, so don’t hesitate to reach out to fans and followers to suggest they join your already scheduled activities during Screen-Free Week. Or just encourage members of your social networks to head outdoors, visit a local park or nature center, enjoy a family hike or bike ride, or try their hand at gardening during Screen-Free Week. With your support, we can help families, schools, and communities discover that the outdoors and Screen-Free Week truly are a natural fit.

Photo Credits: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood & Children & Nature Network

CCFC invites nature lovers everywhere to plan ahead for next year’s Screen-Free Week, scheduled for April 29-May 5, 2019.

RELEASE: National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry join leadership of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Contact: Brenna Muller, 202-548-4581, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry join leadership of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

Washington, DC– The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced the addition of Grace Lee of National Park Trust and Meg Krueger of Wilderness Inquiry to OAK’s steering committee. The addition of National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry to OAK’s leadership team brings a fresh new perspective to the multi-sector partnership to connect children, youth and families with the outdoors. Both organizations bring invaluable experience from their programmatic work serving youth directly in the outdoors. National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry are joining OAK’s steering committee as two year term-members, from January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.

Grace Lee, Executive Director of National Park Trust (NPT) has worked with the NPT board and staff to expand NPT’s mission, which originally focused solely on the preservation of national parks through land acquisition, to include youth programs with the goal of cultivating future park stewards. As a result, since 2009, NPT’s Buddy Bison School Program and Kids to Parks Day have benefited more than 2 million children across the country.

“I’m delighted to join the OAK steering committee and look forward to working with OAK members to improve access for all children to their local, state and national parks,” said Grace Lee. “It is vital that we connect our youth to the great outdoors — they are our future caretakers of our public lands, waters and the environment.”

Meg Krueger, Wilderness Inquiry’s Education Program Manager, coordinates the Canoemobile program, a roving fleet of Voyageur canoes that travels to over 50 cities and serves 30,000 youth and community members each year.

“Wilderness Inquiry is honored to join the steering committee, and contribute to OAK’s inspiring work as a convening and advocating agency,” said Meg Krueger. “We look forward to complimenting this work with our strength in directly connecting the next generation of environmental stewards to our public lands and waterways.”  

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to welcome Grace Lee with National Park Trust and Meg Krueger with Wilderness Inquiry to the leadership of OAK,” said OAK’s founder and chair Jackie Ostfeld. “All children and youth should have regular, safe and varied opportunities to learn in and about the natural world. National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry are leaders in advancing programs to connect youth with the outdoors and have played critical roles in advancing OAK’s top priorities, including ensuring that fourth graders across America were able to take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park program. The addition of these tremendous leaders brings invaluable expertise to our growing alliance.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: CONGRESS ACTS TO PROTECT ACCESS TO PARKS AND EXPAND CAREER PATHWAY PROGRAMS FOR KIDS AND YOUTH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.org

Congress Acts to Protect Access to Parks and Expand Career Pathway Programs for Kids and Youth

Legislation encourages fourth graders to visit national parks and public lands; older youth and veterans to find employment opportunities in conservation

Washington, D.C.– Today, the Every Kid Outdoors Act passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources on voice vote as part of a larger legislative package on outdoor recreation. The Every Kid Outdoors Act would continue an existing program that ensures every fourth grade student in U.S. has access and encouragement to visit national parks and public lands. This program is expected to end this year unless Congress acts to fund it past 2018.

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act was also included in the package, and would provide career pathways for youth and young veterans in conservation, particularly veterans returning from deployment.

“Every kid should have access to our national parks,” said Jackie Ostfeld, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Chair of OAK. “Today kids are spending less time outdoors than any generation in history. We need the Every Kid Outdoors Act to maintain our kids’ connection with nature, and to protect public health. And for older youth and veterans, the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act provides a critical pathway for employment in conservation for youth and young veterans while helping to address the growing maintenance backlog in our national parks and public lands.

“Thank you to the House Natural Resources Committee for moving this legislation forward and making sure access and opportunities to play, learn, and work on our public lands are prioritized with so much else going on in Washington. With your continued support, we will pass the Every Kid Outdoors and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Acts and ensure access to our national parks for the next generation.”

Connecting young people to our National Parks and other public lands is a great way to ensure that kids are active, healthy, and happy,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy, The Wilderness Society and Vice Chair of OAK. “We need to do everything we can to connect kids to the great outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act and 21CSC are key components of OAK’s comprehensive strategy for getting kids outside. The Wilderness Society applauds the House Natural Resources Committee for moving these bills forward.”

“Alliance for Childhood is enthusiastic about the opportunities the Every Kid Outdoors Act will provide for fourth graders and their families. Together with our partners at Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we look forward to working with federal agencies to ensure all children’s healthy development, especially through outdoor, child-initiated play in our natural world,” said Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood.

“Parks play a critical role in teaching our nation’s youth about conservation and the importance of the outdoors,” said Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO. “Thank you to Congress for taking the first step to ensure every kid has access to our nation’s parks and the benefits they provide.”

“On behalf of Service & Conservation Corps (Corps) around the country, we thank Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva for including the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act (21CSC) in the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act. The 21CSC Act will develop the next generation of outdoor stewards, recreationists, and sportsmen and women and provide new pathways for veterans to transition to civilian life,” said Tyler Wilson, Director of Government Relations for The Corps Network. “We also applaud inclusion of the Every Kid Outdoors Act which ensures opportunities to engage in the outdoors for thousands of kids around the country. Kids need opportunities for safe access to well-maintained public lands and through the 21CSC Act, Corps and their young adult and veteran Corpsmembers, will be better positioned to help land management agencies address the infrastructure and conservation projects needed for expanding recreation access.”

“Through our national Buddy Bison School Program, we have seen first hand the many benefits of the 4th grade federal park pass that would be continued through the Every Kid Outdoors Act. The pass has been an effective way to engage students and families across the country with our public lands and waters, many for the very first time,” stated Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust.

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BACKGROUND:

The existing Every Kid in a Park program is a low-cost and popular public-private partnership that helps boost local economies while improving our children’s health and connections to nature. In the program’s first year, more than two million fourth graders downloaded the Every Kid pass. Over the first two years, nearly $5 million in private funding has been leveraged to support transportation costs for children from low-income schools across the United States.

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

NEW YORK BILL CONNECTS CHILDREN WITH OUTDOORS

by Suparna Dutta, Sierra Club Outdoors intern

New York joins the growing roster of states advancing strategies to connect children and youth with the outdoors. With a unanimous vote (63-0) lawmakers from both sides of the aisle just passed legislation to address the growing divide between children and the outdoors.

State Assembly Bill A735 was just signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and directs the state commissioners of health and environmental conservation to study and develop a long term strategy to promote outdoor environmental education and recreation with a focus on outdoor play and learning opportunities, for kids in New York.

The bill was introduced in response to a growing body of research revealing that children and youth are increasingly spending time indoors. On average, the American child spends between four to seven minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play and recreation, while exposure to daily screen-time exceeds seven hours for adolescents. Bill authors point to a correlation between increasing childhood obesity rates and the decline in outdoor recreation, and acknowledge access to open space as vital for everyone, and “particularly valuable to children growing up in “urban hardscapes,” or areas where access to nature is limited.” The strategy is to be based on an analysis of the health of New York’s youth, including childhood obesity rates and economic trends related to outdoor access. It will also be developed in consultation with state health and advisory bodies. The strategy will help New York develop long-term policies that support environmental stewardship and embrace the health benefits of time in nature to improve the well-being of New York state residents.

Founding member of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the Y played a pivotal role in advancing this important policy measure. “The YMCA’s mission stands for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We supported this bill from its very inception since it is congruous to the mission of the Alliance,” said Kyle Stewart, Executive Director of the Alliance of New York State YMCAs. “The development of policies that foster stewardship of the environment, an appreciation of the importance of the wise use of natural resources, and recognition of the health benefits of time spent in nature are essential to the residents of New York state.”

The Alliance of New York State YMCAs and New York’s state legislature and found inspiration for this statewide effort in the federal Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, supported by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. If passed, the legislation would  encourage states to develop multi-year multi-sector strategies to connect children and youth to the outdoors.

The Alliance of New York State YMCAs received the 2017 OAK Leaf Award for raising awareness about the importance of open spaces for children’s health and playing a critical role in the passage of Assembly Bill 735.