All posts by OAK

My name is Jackie Ostfeld. I am the co-founder and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the Policy Manager for Sierra Club's Outdoors program. I am an advocate for connecting kids with nature. My views are my own.

RELEASE: Outdoors Alliance for Kids and Scholastic Announce All Kids Outdoors Essay Contest Winners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

Outdoors Alliance for Kids and Scholastic Announce All Kids Outdoors Essay Contest Winners
Nearly 2,000 Kids Nationwide Submitted Entries

Washington, D.C., (May 23, 2019) — The Outdoors Alliance for Kids and Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company, are proud to announce the winners of the All Kids Outdoors Contest. Nearly 2,000 fourth through sixth grade students from across the nation submitted essays and accompanying illustrations to explain why the outdoors matter.

Grand prize winner Violet M., a 4th grader from Kalispell, MT, wrote in her essay: “When I’m outside, I feel like the whole world is in balance. Studies show that being outside and a part of nature will decrease stress and make us more reassured.”

Katie, B., a 6th grader from Ellisville, MO, wrote in her Honorable Mention winning essay, “Parks are great to help improve our environment, but they also improve our relationships. Just think of the first time you went to the park and were leery of going down the big slide. Often, you watched others, and those around you would give you the courage to try it. Those experiences tie us together with others rather than being isolated in our homes.”

Fifth grader, Indi M. of McLean, VA, the second Honorable Mention winner, shared “We need the outdoors, and it needs us. [It provides] physical and mental health benefits, [and I like] how it maintains the atmosphere, and how incredibly high-spirited it can make you feel.”

Sweepstakes winner Emmanuel O., a 5th grader from Falls Church, VA wrote, “When a person is outside, they get to experience many things like trees, plants, animals, fungi, and other things that are in nature. These help them to think about new things or ideas that could help their work, home, and relationship with other people. This is why many towns, cities, and communities are building parks and educating people on outdoor activities, so that they can enjoy healthy living.”

Contest winners will receive prizes including books from Scholastic and the Grand Prize winner will receive of a trip to Olympic National Park. Teachers of the winning students also receive prizes to select educational resources for their classrooms from The Scholastic® Store. Read the winners’ full essays and see their illustrations here.

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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 more than 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

Youth Voices: The Outdoors And People

Sweepstakes Winner
Emmanuel O., 5th Grade, Falls Church, VA
All Kids Outdoors Scholastic-OAK Youth Essay Contest
Youth Voices Blog Series

The Outdoors And People

The great outdoor spaces, aren’t they beautiful? An outdoor space is any place outside a living space where people can interact, play, and relax. This includes the backyards of homes, playgrounds for kids, sidewalks, biking trails, community parks, nature reserves, national parks, waterfronts or beaches, and farmlands. Some of my favorite outdoor spaces are lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, woodlands, parks, bike and walk trails, and beaches. I think that outdoor spaces are important because it improves a person’s life and wellbeing.

Ont thing that is true about nature is that, being outdoors can calma person down, and relieve stress. Paul Dudley White, of the Tyee Outdoor Experience LLP, said, “Time spent outdoors boosts concentration (even those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD), improves creative thinking, decreases negative thinking and stress, and can even wake you up as well as a cup of coffee. And all for free! That is about the best medical plan I know.” This quotation shows that being outdoors can help a person relieve stress. Being in nature, peoples minds are opened to a beautiful world, and finally help them to relax. It can also help people with ADHD walk-off and release extra energy they stored up inside. Being outside can wake someone up, since that person is exposed to fresh air and daylight while walking, jogging, running, or biking. It is true that their body systems start to get active and therefore, wake up. Creative thinking is boosted, as well. When a person is outside, they get to experience many things like trees, plants, animals, fungi, and other things that are in nature. These help them to think about new things or ideas that could help their work, home, and relationship with other people. This is why many towns, cities, and communities are building parks and educating people on outdoor activities, so that they can enjoy healthy living.

Original Artwork by Emmanuel O.

Another reason that the outdoors are important is because people recognize the beauty of nature. Many people enjoy hiking in the woods to appreciate the beauty of nature, and use it for exercising. Some people like the colors of tree leaves and flowering plants. Others, have a distinct respect for nature and the outdoors. For example, springtime in Washington, D.C. is a remarkable period because of the cherry blossoms in the historic mall. People from all over the nation, tourists from other countries, come to the nation’s capital to see the cherry blossoms in their beautiful colors. Tour Guides tell people how the Japanese emperor donated those trees to the United States of America as a sign of friendship and peace after the second world war. The cherry blossoms in D.C. has now become a good outdoor tourist attraction and a symbol of international relationship between two important countries. According to John Muir, “in every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.” This important man, also called “father of the National Parks’, was a naturalist who advocated for the preservation of wilderness in the United States of America. Some of the national parks, such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the Shenandoah Valley, have become places for tourists, hikers, and campers. In particular, the Shenandoah Sky Ride, in the fall of every year, gives people the wonderful opportunity to see the changing colors of leaves on trees and plants. Many people have been inspired to write books and poems after seeing the beauty of fall in the Shenandoah Valley. As can be seen now, outdoor spaces are special, because it helps people to admire and enjoy nature.

My personal experience with outdoors, started with my parents taking me to play outside in our backyard and front yard for recreation. My parents also took me to playgrounds where I played with other kids, and learned to run, climb, and slide. Our family has also toured several national parks such as Mount Washington in New Hampshire and the Virginia Shenandoah Valley. I remember an amazing and unforgettable experience of being at the peak of Mount Washington, which is literally so high and immersed in the clouds, that I felt the wetness of the clouds floating by. I have also been to lots of parks for fishing in lakes and ponds, but none compares to my family’s trip to Virginia Beach. I went saltwater fishing with my dad using bloodworms. It was as if this bait was magically attractive to the Croaker fish that, each time I cast my line in the water, took the bait. I ended up catching eleven fishes that day. I was overjoyed and satisfied, because it was the most number of fishes I had ever caught in a single fishing trip. That remains my personal saltwater fishing record, for now. So, these personal experiences remind me of the joy, benefits and satisfaction that comes from the outdoors.

Even though the outdoors are beautiful and all, there are some things about it I don’t like. For example, I don’t like the biting insects, or being outside in the raid, and sweltering heat. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like going outside because it is uncomfortable to walk long distances with my dad. I also don’t like it when there are storms, or when  have to do garden work for long periods of time. I know people who are afraid of going to the woods, because they think that wild animals will attack them. Also, some people are afraid of being stung by a bee or wasp. But, wild animals and stinging insects will only attack or harm someone when they are provoked or angered. Besides that, an unprovoked attack happens very rarely, and under specific conditions, such as when a creature is stressed. This means that people should still be able to enjoy the outdoors anytime, if they take the necessary precautions.

I believe that people appreciate the beauty of nature and the outdoors when they experience them. So, the common saying that ‘the taste of pudding is in the eating’ is true. In conclusion, some of the benefits that the outdoors offer people include relieving stress, improving creative thinking, and increasing a person’s alertness. The outdoors is appreciated by people around the world, as I have experienced the beauty of the outdoors in my own personal life. So, why not go outside today and have some fun? You will appreciate it! Trust me.

Youth Voices: The Importance of Outdoors

Honorable Mention
by  Indi M., 5th Grade, McLean, VA
All Kids Outdoors Scholastic-OAK Youth Essay Contest
Youth Voices Blog Series

The Importance of Outdoors

Children’s outdoor play is rapidly diminishing, we are focusing more on sedentary lifestyles. No one can deny our simple interest with electronics now in the modern era. The outdoors are the original foundation of this human race. It is quite likely we are instinctively drawn to it. But it’s hard to ignore walking by a park, hearing no laughter. And it’s hard to ignore the fact that people are building universal cities, and wiping out natural landscapes and nature preserves as they please. There is no one to blame, we are the ones who are eroding children’s outdoor playing time, and reconstructing natural landscapes to something that will increase our world pollution is not helping whatsoever. There are so many reasons why the outdoors are so important, but the three main reasons are: physical and mental health benefits, how it maintains the atmosphere, and how incredibly high-spirited it can make you and feel.

Original Artwork by Indi M.

First of all, outdoor play time for children will fundamentally improve mental and physical health. Research reveals that pushing our own limits can educate us in understanding ourselves. Children pushing their limites does not mean laying inside, watching TV. Outdoor play will not only deepen our understanding of ourselves, but also compel us to deepen our understanding of each other. Like a free change to physically socialize. Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing reported an essay on “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?” It states, “Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies.” This quotation explains the emotional and mental stress that will lift once you are met with outdoors. In “Let Kids be Kids,” Caileigh Flannigan says, “The absence of such play environments is not only influencing the quantity and quality of children’s play, but also affecting children’s health and well-being.” This illustrates the fact that health can improve from outdoor environments. Many people who work with young children know how fast bacteria and diseases can spread through this environment. We all know that when we are sick, we are not in a fit, healthy state. The outdoors, again, come to us at this stage; fresh air can reduce the spread of infection immensely. Johnson, Christie, and Wardle also state in “The Importance of Outdoor Play for Children,” “Outdoor play enables the infectious agents to spread out and be dissipated; it also enables children to get fresh air and exercise and be less constrained than they are in the classroom.” This supports that reducing time outdoors can help disease spread, and that a lot of fresh air can reduce that spread. My last reason why outdoors can provide health benefits, is from vitamin D. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium, you get vitamin D when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. To get direct sunlight, you must go outside. Given all the possible health benefits, outdoor play should be considered very important.

Secondly, without nature and outdoors, the atmosphere would fall apart. An EPA’s report on “Outdoor Air Quality” states, “Outdoor air — the air outside building, from ground level to several miles above the Earth’s surface — is a valuable resource for current and future generations because it provides essential gases to sustain life and it shields the Earth from harmful radiation.” This quotation explains how the atmosphere outdoors protects us from extreme radiation, and dangerous gases. Outdoors do not only provide health benefits for our bodies, but it protects us from things that just scream out danger. There is one slight problem with this, the outdoors shield us from unwanted sources, so why do we neglect fresh air. When we pollute, or just release smoke into the air, we are creating greenhouse gases. Those gases rise to the atmosphere and thicken it. The consequences to this is that the rays of light from the sun hit our earth, and almost all of them stay, while some should bounce off. Our atmosphere is protecting us from extreme heat and destructive gases, so why thicken it from pollutants? I walk around this town quite a bit, and I am never pleasured with complete fresh air. I smell car exhaust, I smell too many things that I shouldn’t smell. The outdoors, the atmosphere, fresh air, whatever you want to call it, protects us, why not protect it?

Finally, my last reason is about how good the outdoors makes you feel. In “6 Benefits of Getting Fresh Air,” by Rebecca Taylor a Kent-Teach Advisor, stated, “The more fresh air you get, the more oxygen you will breathe which will increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) you inhale, consequently making you happier.” THis quote explains the research that has been done to prove how the outdoors can change your mood, to a much nicer one. Rebecca Taylor also stated, “You may have noticed after spending time outside, you come back indoors feeling brighter and perhaps ready to get back to work. More oxygen results in greater brain functioning, improving your concentration skills and providing you with more energy.” This quote explains how the outdoors doesn’t just make you feel nice and dandy, it can sharpen your senses with fresh air. Last year I went to New Zealand, known for its amazing landscapes and natural beauties, I was looking forward to it. We went on a hike as an activity through the woods one quiet morning. I wanted to be alone from my family, so I boosted up in front of them. Every beautiful natural sculpture fascinated me. Everything that looked absolutely unreal, I stopped to ponder. When the group finally caught up, I felt like I had been an adventure! Free, high-spirited, bright, I was all of those at the moment. Being outdoors that day, is a magical feeling and experience, that I will never forget.

Why does just one gasoline powered car matter to the pollution of Earth? Why not just relax indoors with fresh air conditioning? Playing video games makes so many people happy! I can answer both questions, and logically respond to that statement. One car matters to the Earth’s atmosphere because seventy-five percent of Earth’s pollution is from gasoline powered cars. And every single one of those cars, helps that to be true. Fresh air conditioning is not the same as fresh air. Sitting next to a noisy, dirty machine swivelling air at your face, is not the same as going out to watch and enjoy the sunset. And it doesn’t take a completely intact, sharp mind to see how. It is true that many people enjoy video games. I wouldn’t think that when you play a video game, you scientifically become happy. I would think though, that screens are addictive, and people feel encouraged to continue playing because of the competitiveness and urge to try and win something from playing. It is technologically proven, that oxygen results in better brain functioning. Just deep breath of air can feel good.

Children aren’t getting enough outdoor time, and we are not protecting our planet with the care that we should, considering how it helps us survive. It is insane to me how we treat Earth when it is so clear what it does for us. There is no question, the outdoors is what makes life possible, it’s what we came from, why end from it too? Not dirty cities, not relaxing indoors with TV on. Because on the side of that modern electricity, there is burning coal and fuel. We need the outdoors, and it needs us. Physical and mental health benefits, how it maintains the atmosphere, and how incredibly high-spirited it can make you feel. That is plenty of reasoning to say the outdoors are important.

Youth Voices: The Great Outdoors

Honorable Mention
Katie B., 6th Grade, Ellisville, MO
All Kids Outdoors Scholastic-OAK Youth Essay Contest
Youth Voices Blog Series

The Great Outdoors

Swinging, sliding, and climbing at parks are only for fun, right? Not true! Parks and outdoor spaces are not only for fun, but are actually necessary for the world. Parks and outdoor spaces improve our health, environment, and relationships.

Parks and outdoor spaces improve our health. Specifically, by going to the park, a person’s stress is decreased and happiness increased. Researchers from Finland set out to prove that parks decrease stress. When we are stressed, we release a hormone in our bodies called cortisol. The higher your stress, the more cortisol is found in your body. The researchers from Finland found that the people’s cortisol levels were lower in the park environments than in the city. They concluded that parks relax us more than being in the middle of the city (Tyrvainen and Kagawa 8). Not only by going to the park does stress decline, but feelings of happiness increase. When you exercise at the park, endorphins and serotonin are released. Endorphins are chemicals that are released in your brain with exercise. They make you feel more positive and have a better outlook on life. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain that is balanced by exercise to make you feel less anxious and depressed (Breuning 32 and 37). Overall, you feel happier when endorphins and serotonin are energized by exercising in the park. Parks and outdoor spaces also improve our health by strengthening our physical health. By being active in a park, you will lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your muscles (Laino 2).

Original Artwork by Katie B.

We are so fortunate to have parks improve our health, but we are equally lucky to have parks improve our environment. The trees in parks and outdoor spaces improve our environment by removing pollutants from the air. Air pollution needs to be eliminated because it increases the risk of cancer and can cause breathing problems. Fortunately, trees trap dust, ash, pollen, and smoke from the air which help to prevent our lungs from being damaged by these pollutants (“Environmental and Nature’s Benefits” 1). A second way that parks improve our environment is by decreasing crime. Recent studies have found that maintaining green spaces, like parks, lower crime in cities. One theory to explain this finding is that well-kept lawns and community spaces encourage people to spend more time outside. While in those spaces people tend to keep a close watch in the areas which helps prevent crime. Another theory is that parks increase social activity bringing in more people and thus pushing out crime. Finally, parks may bring more positive interactions and a greater sense of community which increases ownership of the space and decreases criminal behavior (Spector 1).

Parks are great to help improve our environment, but they also improve our relationships. First, parks give a place to go to meet new people. With all the people interacting, it is a wonderful place to join in with a group to engage in the activity that they are doing at the park. In order to meet new people at the park, you don’t have to go through an awkward silence by trying to come up with small talk. Instead, you just join in the activity and the social connection is made through the common activity. Second, parks increase a sense of community. Children are playing together and praising each other. Just think about the first time you went to the park and you were leery of going down the big slide. Often, you watched others and those around you would give you the courage to try it. Those experiences tie us together with others rather than being isolated in our homes. We feel cared for and needed by others.

Although there are several reasons why we need parks, not everyone believes that we need to build new parks. Some people recommend that we should not build any new parks because the parks that we have are not currently being maintained well. For example, it is reported that Grand Canyon National Park needs $100 million to repair the water system (Watson and Wilson 1). People opposed to building new parks become outraged when money is spent on building new parks. In contrast, those who are supporters of building new parks know that all communities deserve to have parks in order to build relationships, fight crime, and improve health. No city in our world should be excluded from having the benefits of parks just so that national parks are better maintained (“Eight Reasons” 1).

In conclusion, parks and open spaces have numerous benefits beyond only their entertainment value. Specifically, parks improve our health, environment, and relationships. Parks are necessary to improve our physical and mental health, keep our environment clean and safe, and strengthen our friendships. Due to these benefits, available land should be used to build new parks. We need clean and safe places to play, exercise, and meet new friends. Please remember the next time to vote “yes” in your city to create funds to build new parks. All of our cities need the great outdoors!

Youth Voices: How Nature Improves the Brain

Grand Prize Winning Essay
by Violet M., 4th Grade, Kalispell, MT
All Kids Outdoors Scholastic-OAK Youth Essay Contest
Youth Voices Blog Series

How Nature Improves the Brain

American marine biologist Rachel Carson remarked in Silent Spring, “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Numerous citizens of the U.S. don’t realize how fortunate they are to reside right by nature and experience the countryside consistently. Whether experiencing nature virtually or in the real world, the effects nature has on your brain are immediate. Nature enhances one’s attention span, creativity and happiness while decreasing anxiety and stress levels.

Something I enjoy about nature is how peaceful it is. Activities such as fishing, camping and swimming are just some of the ways you can experience the outdoors. When I’m outside, I feel like the whole world is in balance. Studies show that being outside and a part of nature will decrease stress and make us more reassured. According to Jill Suttie, “The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces.” This means we were formerly adapted to dwell outside like every other creature on Earth.

Original Artwork by Violet M.

Researcher Jill Suttie also mentions, “In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie, and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes, showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.” This quote indicates that exposure to nature will have a faster, more effective recovery from stress. However, people observing urban settings didn’t have a remarkable recovery from the stress-related movie. In conclusion, these studies have proven that people in nature have reduced stress levels and are less irritable than humans that live in an urban setting.

Further scientific research has proven that surrounding yourself in nature increases human happiness. The website Happy Brain Science states that, “Merely viewing nature scenes is enough to remind us of how expansive and soothing a direct experience with nature is.” This quote is significant because it tells us that urban settings don’t advance our psychological fitness as much as being outside does. Being in nature has an immediate positive effect on the mind. I feel that being in nature and listening to Mozart is the perfect combination because enjoying music while in nature is beautiful, peaceful and breathtaking.

Author Kevin Loria states, “One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be ‘useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments’ for major depressive disorder.” As Loria acknowledges, just taking a hike within a landscape can decrease amounts of anxiety. So nature has a tremendous effect on the mind and the mood.

Not let’s look at how nature affects the human attention span and the creative side of our brain. Nature can increase attention span and creativity level after devoting a short time outside. Kevin Loria states, “The attention-improving effect of nature is so strong it might even help kids with ADHD: they’ve been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park.” Based on this evidence, we see that children who suffer from ADHD can improve their attention span by experiencing nature. Loria further states, “Another study found that people immersed in nature for four days boosted their performance on a creative problem-solving test by 50%.” This evidence suggests that nature improves creativity.

In conclusion, nature has calming, healing and inspiring effects on the human brain. Nature has the potential to increase the attention span, creativity and happiness. It can also decrease levels of anxiety and stress. Parks and other outdoor spaces provide a place for people to enjoy nature. Nature inspires us to be visionary utilizing everything around us. Artists draw eye-catching landscapes, movie companies produce nature documentaries and people set aside land to let our natural world flourish. In the end, it’s impossible to deny the fact that parks and other outdoor spaces are places everyone should experience and appreciate.

Works Cited

Suttie, Jill. “How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative.” Greater Good Magazine. Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2019.

Author Unknown. “13 Science-Based Reasons that Suggest Viewing Nature Scenes can Improve Your Health.” Happy Brain Science. Web. 29 Mar. 2019.

Loria, Kevin. “Being Outside can Improve Memory, Fight Depression, and Lower Blood Pressure – Here are 12 Science-Backed Reasons to Spend More Time Outdoors.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. 22 April 2018. Web. 29 Mar. 2019.

Carson, Rachel, 1907-1964. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

RENEWING A LOVE FOR THE OUTDOORS THIS SPRING: Screen-Free Week 2019

guest blog by Rinny Yourman, JD, Screen-Free Week Outreach Coordinator, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, OAK Member

When children have free time to themselves, how do we want them to spend it?

We hope they’ll spend it looking down –not at screens– but digging in the dirt, gardening, collecting shells or stones, admiring flowers, watering plants. Maybe they’ll spend it looking up –admiring birds, trees, clouds, sunsets, and stars. Perhaps they’ll get moving, choosing to hike, bike, canoe, explore. Or maybe they will simply lie still, quietly attuned to the nature sounds and breezes that envelope them.

Screen-Free Week, the annual, international celebration that takes place this year April 29-May 5, encourages children, families, schools, and communities to set aside entertainment screens for a week and instead fill their free time with all kinds of screen-free fun. There is no prescription for how to celebrate, other than to go entertainment screen-free. So children can read, garden, exercise, craft, knit, explore, meditate, volunteer, hike, anything.

Elementary and high school students from Chicago Waldorf School clean up
Welles Park during Screen-Free Week 2017.

In 2018, Screen-Free Week celebrations around the world included a vast variety of nature experiences and time spent outdoors. We heard from families, schools, and communities that they enjoyed, among other things: gardening, hikes, bike rides, visits (to nature centers, parks, farms, arboretums, public gardens, farmers markets, planetariums), playground meet-ups, nature and bird walks, beach activities, seed exchanges, garden day, nature programs, canoeing, nature journaling, bike-to-school day, outdoor festivals, tree treks, nature-themed crafts, kite flying, and so much more.

Screen-Free Week is an especially magical week for nudging the kids in our lives to spend time outdoors. Milder weather stirs a natural desire in us to immerse ourselves in nature. Why not capitalize on this inclination by celebrating Screen-Free Week 2019 with nature-themed activities? We invite zoos, aquariums, nature centers, public gardens, and national, state, and local parks to encourage children to visit and explore during Screen-Free Week.

We’d be thrilled to see every family, school, and community initiate a gardening project in honor of Screen-Free Week. Gardening provides children with a lifelong skill, beautifies and feeds, instructs about local ecology, is suitable indoors or out, and teaches patience and persistence.

Our dream is that in the near future, young adults will claim that it was during Screen-Free Week when their parents, caregivers, teachers, grandparents, or family friends first introduced them to their love of gardening.

This year, Screen-Free Week falls during the same week as the 100th-anniversary celebration of Children’s Book Week. Why not celebrate both events with a nature-themed twist? As we all know, children’s books can be meaningful portals to discovery. So before Screen-Free Week begins, be on the lookout for children’s books that inspire home or school garden projects. Then, during Screen-Free Week, bring children’s books with you on outdoor excursions, to help children identify constellations, cloud formations, birds, trees, flowers, and insects. And consider finding nature-themed arts and crafts books for creative inspiration.

There are fascinating nature-related fiction books worth reading during Screen-Free Week. How many of us have been moved by such novels as Island of the Blue DolphinsMy Side of the Mountain or Hatchet? How many of our kids have committed to wildlife conservation efforts from such titles such as The Loraxand Hoot? In honor of both events, why not encourage a child to read any book she desires, but do it outdoors, whether in a hammock, on the balcony, or at the scenic terminus of a hiking trail? How about reading aloud to a child, while you are both sitting outside?

Ideally, we want kids to complete Screen-Free Week with a renewed sense of connection to the earth and the outdoors. Perhaps, if given the chance, they’ll emerge from Screen-Free Week with a newfound love of nature or outdoor activity. Hopefully, the week will invite them, along with their families, to engage in more mindful use of tech going forward. And maybe they’ll invite a friend or family member to enjoy some outdoor time, together.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which hosts Screen-Free Week, invites nature lovers everywhere to download free Screen-Free Week resources and register their Screen-Free Week celebrations at here.

Re-posted with permission from the Children & Nature Network

When the Kids Speak Up

by Jackie Ostfeld, OAK Founder & Chair, Director of Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign

Photo Credit: National Park Trust

The Every Kid Outdoors Act is now the law of the land – no pun intended. An historic public lands package has swept through both chambers of Congress in atypical bipartisan fashion and landed on the president’s desk. The conservation bill includes protections for millions of acres of wild lands and hundreds of miles of rivers. It permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund which not only helps to acquire new public lands, but also to expand nearby nature access to local parks and recreation opportunities. The landmark legislation authorizes the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, creating career pathways in conservation for youth and young veterans. And it establishes a new national monument to civil rights leader and World War II veteran Medgar Evers.

This massive public lands package was years in the making. But the Every Kid Outdoors Act is a relative newcomer, born out of one of the greatest challenges facing our national parks. Audrey and Frank Peterman put it clearly in a recent piece for Audubon: our national parks have a diversity problem.

The Every Kid in a Park program was established in 2015 by President Barack Obama as part of his commitment to ensure that all kids would have an opportunity to visit and enjoy our shared public lands. The program was an invitation to fourth graders and their families, designed to welcome a new generation into national parks.

The program was wildly popular when it was announced. In just the first two years, more than two million fourth graders downloaded their Every Kid in a Park vouchers online. And it was popular across the partisan divide, with both red- and blue-leaning states like IndianaMarylandNew York, WyomingIdaho, and New Mexico adopting the program in their park systems. Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval even signed a state lawto open up state parks to fifth graders.

I was honored to join the administration and my colleagues in the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) to help launch the Every Kid in a Park program in Washington, D.C.New York City, and Hawaii. In Detroit, Garrett Dempsey joined partners to host events reaching over 4,000 kids with nature-based opportunities. In Los Angeles, Roberto Morales built partnerships with schools and nonprofits to expand opportunities for fourth graders to visit the San Gabriel Mountains. Youth-serving organizations, like the National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry, and many others, leveraged the program to expand outdoor opportunities for the kids they served. Companies like REI and The North Face chipped in, too. Over five million dollars was leveraged from the private sector to support transportation costs for children attending Title 1 schools.

Photo Credit: National Park Trust

I knew the 2016 election would have consequences. Never did I imagine that this nonpartisan program serving children would be targeted for elimination. But that is exactly what happened. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids began to hear that the new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was considering letting the program expire quietly. Members of OAK organized to lend their support. Through a postcard campaign and youth blog series, we collected personal stories from fourth graders about the impact of the program on their own lives.

Photo Credit: Isabel Argoti, Every Kid in a Park Fellow (Youth share their stories about the Every Kid in a Park program)

But we couldn’t take any chances, so in 2017, OAK worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce the Every Kid Outdoors Act, legislation that would protect Every Kid in a Park from being eliminated by the Trump administration. We hosted a congressional briefing, lifting up the voices of two young girls who had participated in the program. We hosted a Twitter party with the bill sponsors, including Representative Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts,
and partnered with Blue Sky Funders Forum to engage the funding community by co-hosting a webinar, which also featured the congresswoman. We organized sign-on letters, congressional testimony, lobby days, and grassroots action alerts.

Photo Credit: National Park Trust (Two young girls share their experience during a briefing on Capitol Hill)

Despite all the bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, Secretary Zinke made another play to let the Every Kid in a Park program expire. This time he publicly signaled his intent to end the program during testimony in front of a congressional committee, telling senators, “When you give discounted or free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled, and you do it by the carload, there’s not a whole lot of people who actually pay at our front door.”

OAK collected sign-on letters and grassroots action alerts from nearly 100 organizations and more than 50,000 people, urging Zinke to continue the program. But it was the voices of children that ultimately swayed him to do the right thing. In the spring of 2018, eight kids from military families delivered handwritten postcards from over 1,000 fourth-graders to Secretary Zinke during a meeting organized by the National Park Trust and Blue Star Families. Days later, Zinke announced he would extend the program for one more year.

Photo Credit: Tami Heiliman, U.S. Department of the Interior (Children deliver 1,000+ postcards to Interior Secretary Zinke on the value of the Every Kid in a Park program)

Thanks to the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, the youth we serve can spend their time exploring and enjoying the outdoors, rather than gearing up to fight to save the program for the third year in a row. Now we just need to make sure that every fourth grader in the U.S. has a chance to use their national park pass, and develop the lifelong connection to nature that all of us deserve to experience. You can download your pass here.

RELEASE: Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes House and Senate

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

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

Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes House and Senate
Groups from the Y to the North Face Celebrate Bipartisan Public Lands Package

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Every Kid Outdoors Act (363-62) as part of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), a bipartisan public lands package. The legislation passed in the U.S. Senate (92-8) two weeks ago and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.

The Every Kid Outdoors Act formally authorizes for seven years the Every Kid in a Park program (now called Every Kid Outdoors), to encourage children to visit their national parks and public lands. Every Kid Outdoors provides fourth graders with a free entry park pass for themselves and their families to visit all of our federally managed public lands, waters, and shores. In its first two years, the program reached over 2 million fourth graders and leveraged nearly $5 million in private funding to support transportation costs for children from Title 1 schools across the U.S. Launched in 2015, the program was threatened with cancellation twice by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and even singled out by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for termination.

The public lands package also permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the largest source of federal funding for close to home parks, playgrounds, and critical projects that ensure our children have access to nature and opportunities to improve physical fitness. Also included in the package is authorization for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, which strengthens career pathways for youth and young veterans in the stewardship of our public lands and waters.

In response to today’s vote, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statements:

“Today’s historic vote is a win for our kids and our planet. It fills me with great hope to see our elected leaders come together in this time of deep division and pass a bipartisan bill that gets our kids outdoors, creates career pathways for youth and veterans in conservation, and protects and establishes close to home nature access for millions. Thank you to the nearly 100 organizations and tens of thousands of people across the country, including more than 1,000 fourth graders, who voiced their support for the Every Kid in a Park program and ensured today’s victory. The Every Kid Outdoors Act invites every fourth grader in the U.S. to experience their parks and public lands. The members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids stand ready to ensure the program continues to grow and reach even more kids with park opportunities.” — Jackie Ostfeld, Director, Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All Campaign; Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“Getting people outdoors is the highest and best use of America’s public lands. Today’s vote will help get more people outdoors on America’s parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. We commend the U.S. House of Representatives for permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund and extending the Every Kid in Park and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps programs.” — Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy, the Wilderness Society; Vice Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“The passing of the National Resources Management Act is strong confirmation of the bi-partisan nature of public lands and a positive step for the future health of our communities. It helps protect wild places in all 50 states, and will enable more of the 7.6 million jobs across the outdoor recreation economy. Equally exciting is including the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which gives every fourth-grader free access to America’s public land and waters, helping enable a new generation of explorers.” Arne Arens, Global Brand President, The North Face

“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. We applaud the passage of The Every Kid Outdoors Act which 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.” Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA

“Congress’ passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act will make Every Kid in a Park a permanent program once signed into law. In its almost three years of existence, this program had opened the door to the natural beauty of the nation’s parks for countless children, helping them to stay physically active and healthy. With final passage of this legislation, the admirable work of this wonderful public-private partnership can continue and provide opportunities for many more kids to savor the great outdoors through our national parks and public lands.” Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association

“On behalf of kids and families across the nation, we celebrate the House and Senate passage of the Natural Resources Management Act which will not only benefit millions of 4th graders and their families through the Every Kid Outdoors Act, but also thousands of parks, public lands and waters through the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. By preserving our parks and providing access to these special places for our children, we will ensure that America’s heritage will be treasured forever.” — Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“NRPA is delighted Congress passed the Natural Resources Management Act, also known as the ‘Lands Package.’ Among many other important elements, this bipartisan piece of legislation includes the ‘Every Kid Outdoors Act,’ a program we proudly support, as it provides children with the opportunity to explore our nation’s parks and open spaces, an experience every child should have.” — Barbara Tulipane, CAE, President and CEO, National Recreation and Park Association

“The Alliance for Childhood is thrilled about the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act and greatly appreciates the commitment of Congress to getting kids outdoors for their healthy development. This legislation will help ensure equitable opportunities for fourth graders to experience active, child-directed play in our natural world. Anchoring the Every Kid in a Park program with Congressional authorization will support life changing opportunities for the children who need it most.” — Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood

“GirlTrek proudly supports the Every Kid Outdoors Act. We know how important it is  for everyone, especially young people, to have access to our nation’s parks and outdoor spaces. Exploring these beautiful lands opens up a world of possibilities for some of the most marginalized. We belong in every space enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer. It’s not a privilege; it’s our place to be out in nature taking in its splendor. Every Kid Outdoors Act helps to make this possible.” — Vanessa Garrison, Cofounder, GirlTrek

“The American Camp Association applauds the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act which will make permanent the Every Kid in a Park program. This valuable program has granted millions of children access to our nation’s vast and beautiful national parks.  Hundreds of America’s summer camps also utilize parks annually. The passage the Every Kid Outdoors Act will ensure that every 4th grader in the U.S. has a chance to visit, explore and grow their appreciation of national parks.  We thank Congress for their important, bipartisan work to advance this legislation.” Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO, American Camp Association

“With today’s passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, we move another step closer to ensuring that all kids and families have the opportunity to learn about, enjoy and play together in the natural world. For the next generation to appreciate, preserve and protect our parks – and consider careers in the green-collar industry — they need frequent, affordable opportunities to discover the joys of nature. We are encouraged by the bipartisan support for the EKO Act and look forward to continuing opportunities to connect young people with a world that fosters their creativity, provides physical and mental health benefits, and helps them understand the world that provides life, food and wonder.” —  Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director, Seed Your Future

“American Hiking Society applauds the bipartisan final passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Providing free public lands access to fourth graders across the country will introduce the next generation to outdoor recreation and foster lifelong service to and enjoyment of our most treasured natural resource.” Kathryn Van Waes, Executive Director, American Hiking Society

The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood lauds the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Time outside and in nature is critical to children’s healthy development. And in today’s screen-saturated world, it is more vital than ever to ensure that all children have an opportunity to experience our nation’s incredible natural resources.” — Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

“Every child, regardless of their zip code or the amount of money in their bank account, deserves to have regular, easy access to the outdoors, to play, learn, explore and grow. The Every Kid Outdoors Act opens the doors for all 4th graders to explore our public lands and waters, experiencing the rich cultural and biological diversity of our beautiful country. The California Outdoor Engagement Coalition applauds the bipartisan support of the Every Kid Outdoors Act.” Jenny Mulholland-Beahrs, Director, California Outdoor Engagement Coalition

“Avid4 Adventure proudly celebrates the passing of the Natural Resources Management Act.  We applaud the bipartisan support for this bill, which clearly demonstrates that people from all states and a diversity of backgrounds agree that protecting our wild places and empowering kids to lead active and healthy lifestyles in the outdoors are vitally important for our continued success as a nation.” — Paul Dreyer, CEO, Avid4 Adventure

“Now more than ever, it is reassuring to see bipartisan support to give future generations the same opportunities we enjoyed to experience the great outdoors. The Natural Resources Act is a critical step in creating appreciation for, and the emotional connection to the great outdoors.” Bruce Ward, President, Choose Outdoors; Advisor, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Council

“On behalf of our national network of environmental and outdoor educators, we join our partners and colleagues in celebrating the bipartisan passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. By providing access to public lands for every fourth grader and their family, this bill offers an unprecedented opportunity for young people to have meaningful learning experiences that can foster deep connections to our natural resources.”  — Judy Braus, Executive Director, North American Association for Environmental Education

“Our nation’s wildlife heritage will only endure if we ensure future generations can get outside and experience the wonder of wildlife firsthand. The bipartisan Natural Resources Management Act is a common-sense proposal to achieve this vital goal. We’re proud common sense prevailed on this critical piece of legislation and that Every Kid Outdoors is included.” — Josh Falk, National Wildlife Federation

“The American Horticultural Society (AHS) applauds the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which will help bring the proven benefits of being in nature and the outdoors to millions more children and youth. This act will serve as an important accelerator for the AHS’s work with garden- and nature-based educators to nurture the next generation of plant lovers and earth stewards through regular encounters with the natural world and, ultimately, to create a happier, healthier, and more sustainable future for our citizenry. We are grateful to Congress for the bipartisan approach that led to this act’s passage.” — Beth Tuttle, President & CEO, American Horticultural Society

“Great job to OAK for taking the lead and getting this legislation passed. We need to keep going in connecting ALL our kids to nature, forever! Frequent and unstructured nature play (not lead by adults and guided by their own imaginations and discoveries) with visits to all our truly wild places, will grow their minds long-term, as well as their bodies. Parents and teachers need to let our kids lead to show us what they “see” in nature and teach us to new ways to protect it, from their new, and completely unbiased, perspective. We can learn so much from them as well.” David Molzan, Director, Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Inc.

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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 more than 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: Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes the U.S. Senate

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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

Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes the U.S. Senate
Bill Ensures that Program to Allow Fourth Graders to Visit National Parks Will Continue

Washington, D.C.– Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Every Kid Outdoors Act as part of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47). The bill now moves on to the House of Representative for House consideration.

The Every Kid Outdoors Act provides seven year authorization for the Every Kid in a Park program, an Obama-era initiative that has provided passes to visit our national parks to over 2 million fourth graders since its inception. The program was threatened with cancellation several times by the Department of the Interior, and even singled out by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for termination.

“Thank you to the dozens of organizations who acted to protect this vital program, and to the tens of thousands of people across the country who voiced their support, including over one thousand kids who signed postcards about the value of the program. I’m grateful to see our elected leaders come together in this time of division and create a bipartisan bill to make sure every fourth grader in the U.S. has the chance to visit one of their national parks and become a lifelong advocate for conservation.” –  Jackie Ostfeld, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“The Every Kid Outdoors Act is great, low cost way to connect children and their families to America’s parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids thanks Representatives DeGette, Tipton, Quigley, Stefanik, Lynch and Graves for their leadership in making this popular program permanent.” — Paul Sanford, Vice Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.

“The Alliance for Childhood is thrilled about the reintroduction of the Every Kid Outdoors Act and appreciates the commitment of Congresswoman DeGette and all of the co-sponsors supporting this legislation. This bill will help ensure equitable opportunities for fourth graders to experience active, child-directed play in our natural world. Anchoring the Every Kid in a Park program with legislation will support life changing developmental opportunities for the children who need it most.” – Linda Rhoads, Executive Director of Alliance for Childhood

“Seed Your Future wholeheartedly supports the Every Kid Outdoors Act, and all programs that encourage kids and families to learn about, enjoy and play together in the natural world. For the next generation to appreciate, preserve and protect our parks – and consider careers in the industry — they need frequent, affordable opportunities to discover the joys of nature. We encourage the swift passage of the EKO Act and continuing the opportunities to connect young people with a world that fosters their creativity, provides physical and mental health benefits, and helps them understand the world that provides life, food and wonder.” – Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director, Seed Your Future.

“At NRPA, we believe everyone deserves a great park. That’s why we’re proud to support the ‘Every Kid Outdoors Act,’ which increases access to parks and open space for children nationwide. Thank you to Congress for introducing this important piece of legislation. Increased access to parks provides communities everywhere with greater health and wellness opportunities, and a better understanding of the value of conservation.” – Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association, President and CEO.

“On behalf of 4th graders and their families across the country, we support the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Through our national Buddy Bison Program and our work with hundreds of teachers across the country, we have seen first hand how powerful this program is in providing an “access trail” for children, especially those who live in under-resourced communities. These children are our future outdoor enthusiasts and advocates of these important landscapes and historic and cultural sites.” Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“As the largest residential education partner of the National Park Service, NatureBridge’s mission is to connect young people to the wonder and science of the outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act is an extension of that mission, and we support any opportunity to connect even more kids to the natural world.”  Autumn Saxton-Ross, PhD, Director, Mid Atlantic, NatureBridge

“Wilderness Inquiry applauds the reintroduction of the Every Kids Outdoors Act.  We know the power of bringing people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities into our National Parks, and through this legislation thousands of young people will get the opportunity experience these special places firsthand.” Greg Lais, Executive Director Wilderness Inquiry.

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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: Outdoors Alliance for Kids Calls for End to Shutdown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9th, 2019

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

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Calls for End to Shutdown
Youth Advocacy Groups Highlight Impacts of Parks Closures

Washington, D.C.– Today, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), a non-partisan alliance of more than 100 groups, called for the government shutdown to end. Member groups of OAK are raising concerns that the Department of the Interior’s ‘soft closure’ of national parks has created significant health and public safety issues that impact kids and families in particular. The soft closure of our national parks is decreasing access to safe and affordable places for children and families to get outside and active. The shutdown is also resulting in significant damage to natural, cultural and historic resources on our public lands.

“All over the country youth groups that lead trips into our national parks are having to cancel and disappoint the kids they serve. It’s not safe for kids and families to be out there exploring our parks without the support and protection provided by the National Park Service, and it’s not safe for our parks to have people driving off-road, damaging sacred natural features and leaving behind their trash. It’s time to end this shutdown and get our parks back in operation.” — Jackie Ostfeld, founder and chair of OAK and director of Sierra Club Outdoors

“Our national parks and public lands promote a healthy lifestyle by enabling people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and increase their physical activity. The current government shutdown limits access to this invaluable resource for wellness and health in our nation. For this reason, we join the nation’s governors and other organizations in calling for an end to this shutdown.” — Mark Schoeberl, executive vice president of advocacy at the American Heart Association

“Alliance for Childhood is eager for all of our public spaces to be open and staffed by the hardworking park and forest rangers, outdoor educators, and wilderness experience leaders who serve our youth, children and families so enthusiastically. Across the nation, our public lands offer unique and life-changing experiences for those who visit these treasured places. We encourage our federal government leadership to restore the many opportunities for getting kids outdoors by reopening the agencies that serve our future leaders and protect our public lands.” — Linda Rhoads, executive director of Alliance for Childhood

“The government shutdown has been a disaster for America’s parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The shutdown is making the already massive maintenance backlog worse, damaging valuable historic and cultural resources, and ruining travel plans for many Americans. The Wilderness Society calls on government leaders to provide the necessary funding to reopen the government and allow our federal land management agencies to restore these treasured landscapes. Let’s make sure that all Americans have an opportunity to visit these places and have a safe and positive experience.” — Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy at the Wilderness Society

“This ill-conceived shutdown is causing critical damage to our parks and harm to surrounding communities. NRPA urges Congress and the administration to fully fund and reopen our national parks and federal public lands. The neglect and mismanagement of our national parks resulting from this shutdown is unacceptable.” — Barbara Tulipane, CAE, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)

“With the prolonged government shutdown almost in its third week, our National Parks and other public lands are suffering. While we are heartened by concerned citizens volunteering to remove trash and help prevent vandalism, the burden cannot be left with them to prevent irreversible damage. Plus, the continuation of the shutdown puts at risk the very partnerships between nonprofits and the government that help maintain our trails, like American Hiking’s Volunteer Vacations. It’s time for Congress and the White House to reopen the government and resume their responsibility to oversee and fund the protection and maintenance of our National Parks and public lands.” — Kathryn Van Waes, Executive Director, American Hiking Society

“Every year Winter Wildlands Alliance’s 65-site National SnowSchool program introduces thousands of students to winter ecology and the joy of exploring public lands on snowshoes. If the National Park and US Forest Service shutdown continues, many SnowSchool field trips will unfortunately be cancelled. With a finite number of winter days and a limited ability to reschedule, this likely means many kids will completely miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime SnowSchool experience.”  — Kerry McClay, National SnowSchool Director, Winter Wildlands 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 over 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