Category Archives: Blogs

North Face Global Athletes and Partners Connect Kids with the Outdoors in “Every Kid in a Park” Event

guest blog by Annie Yearout, Author of OutdoorsyMama.com – originally appeared on outdoorsymama.blogspot.com  

Celebrating “Every Kid in a Park” granting free National Park Passes to all 4th graders nationwide!
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Photo: National Park Trust
The super-tall, super-lean, super-endurance runner Dylan Bowman is bent over a bunch of outdoor gear – warm jacket, rain layer, etc – rolling up each item as tightly as possible and stuffing them into a backpack, demonstrating to a group of wide-eyed 4th graders how to pack a backpack for a day hike.
He leans in and asks this small group of eight or so kids from Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, California: how many of you have ever gone hiking? Two of the eight kids raise their hands. Just two.
 
North Face global athlete Dylan Bowman teaching about packing a backpack.
Photo: National Park Trust
I don’t know why I find that number surprising. I suppose it’s because I live and breathe the outdoors and I’m surrounded by like minded enthusiasts both in my community and online. But once I reach out of my comfort-bubble-zone, I remember the stark reality that most kids in the United States don’t have my kind of access to the outdoors and don’t get to go to parks beyond their local, neighborhood park.
That’s why last week’s event at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, which brought together 60 students from Oakland to enjoy a day of outdoor games and exploring and was sponsored by a powerful partnership of outdoor-kid-evangelist players, is so vital and touching. 
The official 4th Grade Pass to all U.S. National Parks.
Each and every one of these 60 – 4th graders was proudly given a National Parks Pass to hang around their necks, as if receiving an Olympic Medal, for their entire family to have free access to all of America’s public lands and waters for the entire year, an initiative funded by “Every Kid in a Park” which launched out of the White House last year. And to support and celebrate that initiative, The North Face Explore Fund, The Outdoors Alliance for Kids, The National Park Service and The National Park Trust have all banded together to create this event and similar events around the nation.
Teaching a group of eager 4th graders how to set up a tent.
Photo: National Park Trust
Why is this so important?
“Too few children have opportunities to explore and enjoy the natural world and programs like this are critical to ensuring all kids can visit their public lands,” explains OAK Co-Founder and Chair, Jackie Ostfeld. And she’s right. By providing free access to our nation’s great and treasured parks, this initiative helps alleviate a piece of one the barriers, a financial one, and allows more families to play in the outdoors which in turn brings about a healthier, more active population overall. 
Senior Director of Outdoor Exploration at The North Face, Ann Krcik aptly adds, “through the Explore Fund grants, we are building a community of outdoor explorers and inspiring people to love and protect the places where we play.” This is key. This is vital. By introducing this giant population of 4th graders and their families to the Parks every year, we are creating stewards for wild places and green spaces for generations to come.
North Face athletes mixing it up in the backpack relay race with some giddy 4th graders.
Photo: National Park Trust
So now we circle back to our super-athlete Dylan Bowman and this diverse group of wide-eyed kids hanging onto his every word. The “backpack relay race” starts and each kid is gleefully rolling up gear and smashing it into the backpack as fast as possible to beat the other team of classmates next to them, racing back and forth, gear and bodies flying everywhere.
It’s this kind of giddy joy that helps tells the story of why getting these kids access to the outdoors is so important and why so many groups are making this their mission.
Let’s all grab our backpacks and jump on board. To the summit!
 
For more conversation about the outdoors find me on twitter, facebook and instagram.
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Fourth Graders Get on the River in Anacostia Park

Guest Blog by Brenna Muller, OAK Program Manager

November 22, 2016

Last week, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) came together for our annual gathering in Washington, D.C. to ensure kids across America can experience our national parks and public lands. As part of the week’s events, members of OAK joined the National Park Trust and 40 fourth graders from Wheatley Education Campus DC Public School for a special educational field trip to Anacostia Park. We were joined by partners from the National Park Service, the DC Department of Energy & Environment and the Anacostia Watershed Society.

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Photo Credit: National Park Trust

The outing was in support of the Every Kid in a Park initiative. Every Kid in a Park, launched by President Obama, provides all fourth graders and their families free access to all federal lands, waters and shores for the entire school year.

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Photo Credit: National Park Trust

The fourth graders participated in three educational activity stations. A river boat tour led by the Anacostia Watershed Society was a favorite, as students had the opportunity to get out on the water and learn about the history of the Anacostia River, and enjoyed seeing a blue heron, turtles, and other wildlife.

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Photo Credit: National Park Trust

A river walk tour featured a history and ecology lesson of the park and the river. The students also learned about local wildlife during a guided tour of the Anacostia Resources Education Center and Aquarium.  

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Photo Credit: National Park Trust

This event was one of several that OAK members have held in order to help President Obama reach his goal to connect all fourth graders with the outdoors. Earlier in the week, several OAK members received Leaf Awards for their support for this important initiative.

Thanks to National Park Trust, Anacostia Watershed Society, National Park Service, and Department of Energy & the Environment for a fun and memorable outing for both the students and OAK members who participated!

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps: The Future for Public Lands

guest blog by Brandon Nguyen, Sierra Club intern, Summer 2016

Earlier this summer, the First Family visited Yosemite National Park to celebrate Father’s Day and the 100th anniversary of the National Park System in the great outdoors. Standing in a picturesque scene, with the natural legacy of Half-Dome towering several thousand feet overhead, President Obama spoke to a crowd on the importance of our outdoor areas and their unifying qualities.

“The beauty of the National Park System is it belongs to everybody. It is a true expression of our democracy: the notion that we all look after ourselves and our families, and we work hard and we make money, and we have our own homes and apartments, cars and televisions; but then there’s this part of us that is a part of everybody, something we have in common, something we share, a place where we connect with each other, and to connect with something bigger than ourselves.”

Just three days before the president’s speech, I sat in a briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC). The 21CSC is an initiative committed to increasing the number of youth and veterans engaged in protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s great outdoors through civilian national service. The initiative simultaneously addresses the $11 billion maintenance backlog of our public lands, connects youth to the healing power of nature, and helps veterans reintegrate into society.

The amazing thing about the 21CSC is that it unites so many different people and organizations towards a common goal. Throughout the country, there are over 190 member organization of the 21CSC that give local undeserved youth and veterans the opportunity to develop professional skills while engaging in environmental stewardship projects, such as preventing wildfires and constructing hiking trails.These environmental service projects are completed through partnerships between 21CSC organizations and local, state, and federal land and water management agencies. Outside of the 21CSC are dozens of organizations, corporations, and private businesses that support the initiative. These supporters include REI, KEEN Footwear, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and other groups that recognize the significance of the 21CSC for our parks and the outdoor industry. And finally, with the 21CSC Act (S.1993, H.R. 5114) we find bipartisan support; it was introduced in the Senate in August 2015 by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), and in the House of Representatives in April 2016 by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, June, 2016. Photo Credit - The Corps NetworkVermont Youth Conservation Corps, June, 2016 (Photo Credit: The Corps Network)

The 21CSC was originally started during the Obama administration under Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and has grown significantly under Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s leadership. It serves as a modern expansion on President Franklin Roosevelt’s public work relief program, the Civilian Conservation Corps. The national partnership for the 21CSC is working to reach 100,000 new corps members every year by 2018! The Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the  Sierra Club support the initiative to get all kids outdoors learning and active on our public lands.

In June, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on the 21CSC Act, alongside its companion legislation the Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2015. Members of the committee praised these pieces of legislation that aim to provide skills and job opportunities for youth and young veterans. The 190+ member organizations of the Partnership for a 21CSC draw their participants from a diverse pool to develop a new workforce for the future of our lands and waters. Service opportunities are extended to veterans up to the age of 35, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Young people, ranging from 15 to 25 year olds, from non-profit organizations to tribal governments, are also given opportunities to serve and develop their professional work skills.

In the spirit of 21CSC’s work, and to quote President Obama again:“What an incredible idea! What a worthy investment! What a precious thing we have to pass on to the next generation! Let’s make that happen.”

To learn more, visit the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps website and join the Sign-On Letter in Support of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act.

 

A Heavy Heart in the Grand Canyon

guest post by Jackie Ostfeld, Sierra Club’s Nearby Nature Director and Co-Founding Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids – originally appeared in Huffington Post

Carrying an extra twenty-one pounds of baby on your back as you climb out of the Grand Canyon during a hot day in July isn’t easy. At least, so I’ve heard. My partner did most of the heavy lifting. As we emerged from the canyon, the weight began to lift off of our tired legs. Unfortunately, that weight made a beeline for our hearts, which sank upon learning the ugly details of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling’s untimely deaths. It would be another day or so before the news would reach us of the tragic shooting by a lone gunman of several police officers in Dallas, who were on duty during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.

Our family trip to the Grand Canyon was bittersweet. As a new mom, of an adopted black son, the story of Philando Castile’s death hit me the hardest. He was shot and killed by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her four year old daughter after being pulled over for “driving with a wide nose.” By now, you should have all heard this story and, unfortunately, countless others.

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It wasn’t very long ago that I was pulled over for speeding. We were on our way back from Shenandoah National Park where we had been celebrating Father’s Day. My son was sick and tired of being in the car and he was making his restlessness known. So I, a white woman with a notorious lead foot, picked up the pace. I was pulled over for reckless driving in the state of Virginia. The officer asked why I was speeding. I told him my son was crying and I just wanted to get home; I told him that I was sorry. He gave me a speeding ticket and let me know he wasn’t going to give me a reckless driving charge.

I’ve been pulled over for speeding more times than I care to admit. Never have I feared for my safety. Never have I wondered whether or not I should reach into my glove box for my insurance card, which I have always done without thinking twice. Never have I been asked to step out of my vehicle. Never did my parents give me “the talk” (at least not the driving while black talk). What if I hadn’t been white? Will my son’s experience be different as he matures from a sweet innocent baby into a beautiful black man in America?

When I started drafting this blog, my plan was to write about the Centennial of the National Park Service. Over the last 100 years, we’ve protected over 400 national parks, monuments and historic sites. Since my son was born just over a year ago, we’ve made it our mission to get out and see our country’s magnificent public lands. Last June, when my son was just two weeks old, we went to the Everglades; he slept through his first alligator sighting. In September, when his adoption was finalized, we went to Shenandoah for the first of what would be several trips to the park as a new family. We’ve gone on short hikes in Prince William Forest Park and Rock Creek National Park near our home in Washington, DC. And earlier this month, we went to the Grand Canyon to celebrate my partner’s birthday – he was born on the 4th of July.

I could write about the awesome geological formations of the canyon, or the two California condors soaring overhead as we entered the park, or the warm smell of pinyon pine needles baking in the hot sun, or how my sweet little boy is quickly becoming a fish – splashing and swimming every chance he gets. I could write about the threats to our beloved Grand Canyon from nearby uranium mining and the importance of expanding its protection for future generations.

But my heart is heavy with sadness and worry. It’s a mom’s job to worry, right? I am sad because our black and brown brothers and sisters have been let down by our system. I am sad because far too many white folks are standing on the sidelines, sitting out this fight, or worse yet dismissing the Black Lives Matter movement (the civil rights movement of our time) with statements like “All Lives Matter” which undermine the important call to start valuing black lives as much as we already value white lives.

I am worried because the love of my life is a little black boy who will have to face the harsh realities of systemic racism as he ages. I worry whether I will be able to teach him empathy and resilience; to prepare him to not just survive but to thrive in this world.He’ll face adversity for sure. I wonder if he will continue to feel welcome in the parks and public lands we’ve been introducing him to over this first year of his life – the places where I have been privileged to find solace, healing and even hope.

Just last month on the heels of the horrific shooting targeting the LGBTQ community in Orlando, President Obama took his family to Yosemite National Park. While there, he gave a speech honoring the Centennial of the National Park Service, and highlighting the White House’s Every Kid in a Park initiative to ensure all kids have opportunities to enjoy our public lands, waters and shores. After taking photos and shaking hands, President Obama and his family went for a hike. Just them. No cameras, no press, no special guests.

I can’t help but think after a really hard week, time in nature might have helped the President to reconnect with his family, and in the shadows of the ponderosa pines and granite cliffs, the President might have found a little solace, a little healing and even, a little hope.

Presenting the OAK Tree Award to Senator Patty Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Day Pledge to Get Every Kid in a Park

guest blog by Jackie Ostfeld, Sierra Club Nearby Nature Director, Co-Founder and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

Our National Parks are turning 100, and they’re starting to look a little grey. Fifty-four is not just the age of President Obama, it’s also the average age of a visitor to Yellowstone National Park. America’s parks and public lands belong to all of us, but we’re not all enjoying them. As we look to the next 100 years of conservation in America, it’s critical that we make sure everyone has opportunities to get outdoors.

That’s why this Earth Day I am pledging to help get Every Kid in a Park – and I am asking you to join me. Every Kid in a Park is President Obama’s campaign to encourage fourth graders and their families to experience their parks and public lands. It’s an effort to ensure that our lands, waters and shores continue to be enjoyed for the next 100 years. Kids can download passes to visit our federal lands for free for an entire year. The campaign is also raising money to supplement transportation costs, one of the biggest barriers to participation in the outdoors, for kids and schools.

Sierra Club also took the pledge. During the month of April, Sierra Club staff and volunteers are leading over 100 outings to encourage kids (and adults) to explore, enjoy and protect the outdoors. The outings, while celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service, are taking place in neighborhood parks, national parks and everything in between.

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) took the pledge, too. OAK recently announced a spring lineup of Every Kid in a Park events being run by alliance members, collectively reaching nearly 5,000 fourth graders with a park experience over the next few months. Commitments made by Sierra Club, OAK and many of our partners were included in the White House announcement to get nearly half a million kids outdoors as part of this week’s Every Kid in a Park day of action.

To honor the pledge, many partners came together yesterday to connect 200 fourth graders from Baltimore to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. I was there to celebrate National Park Week and the Every Kid in a Park day of action. The kids were there to have fun – and they did.

After getting their Every Kid in a Park passes, the fourth graders learned about the Monument and participated in a series of nature-based activities. The defense of Fort McHenry was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner and the kids got to fold a massive replica of the flag with National Park Service rangers.

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Photo Credit: Tim Ervin, National Park Service Volunteer; Fourth graders folding the Star-Spangled Banner – sporting awesome sunglasses from the National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club hats

They also learned about oysters in the harbor from Living Classrooms and pitched a tent by the river with the National Park Trust.

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Photo Credit: Linda Rhoads, Alliance for Childhood; Fourth graders learning how to pitch a tent with the National Park Trust (above); Students enjoying their lunch (below)

Sierra Club’s Baltimore Inspiring Connections Outdoors youth from Digital Harbor High School was there to lead several activity stations for the fourth graders, including face painting.

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Photo Credit: Tim Ervin, National Park Service Volunteer; White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss joins Sierra Club’s Baltimore Inspiring Connections Outdoors/Digital Harbor High School seniors.

This Earth Day, join me in supporting this important initiative to connect every fourth grader with nature. I just took the pledge to help get Every Kid in a Park and I hope you will, too.

Young Girls Learn about Gender Justice and Environmental Stewardship

guest blog post by A. Tianna Scozzaro, Director, Sierra Club’s Global Population & Environment Program

“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends” – Mary McLeod Bethune

A powerful civil rights activist and educator, Mary McLeod Bethune devoted her career to improving the lives of African Americans. She founded a school, Bethune-Cookman College, and served as president of the National Council of Negro Women and as a top black administrator in the Roosevelt administration. The first headquarters of the council and her last home, the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House was declared a National Historic Site under the National Park Service in 1982.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Sierra Club partnered with theNational Park Trust to host an Every Kid in a Park event with the terrific fourth grade class from Washington School for Girls in southwest D.C. The Washington School for Girls in Anacostia is a tuition-free Catholic day school, whose students are primarily African-American girls.

The event was part of year-long celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s national parks. Whether it’s the Grand Canyon or historic and cultural sites, America’s public lands belong to us all. As we look toward the next century of conservation, the Sierra Club is working to ensure everyone has the opportunity to experience all our public lands have to offer. Through the Nearby Nature initiative and through promotion of the Every Kid in a Park campaign,  which ensures that fourth graders across America can access their parks, public lands and historical sites for free, and promotion of the Find Your Park campaign, the Sierra Club is working to build and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders, just like the young ladies of the Washington School for Girls.

Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Donning bright orange “Buddy Bison” t-shirts, the girls filed into the historic home quietly taking in the majestic chandeliers and artifacts. Sierra Club staff member Kirin Kennedy kicked off the excitement for environmentalism by explaining how people like artists, writers, and lawyers can all be advocates for environmental stewardship. Ranger Margaret Mills led the students through an enthusiastic lesson on social justice and the story of Mary McLeod Bethune, starting a school with just five students and $1.50. Her legacy lived on through four presidents.

The Sierra Club is dedicated to making the links between gender equity and environmental stewardship. We see that women’s leadership is a key answer to the climate crisis. A study of 130 countries found that countries with higher female parliamentary representation are more prone to ratify international environmental treaties.

And that link was loud and clear. These young female leaders understood that social justice, like the civil rights Mary McLeod so dearly fought for, are imperative for the the protection of each and everyone’s ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy, explore and protect our natural lands.

Photo Credit: Sierra Club

As the Washington School for Girls youth eagerly tore the wrapping off their brand new national park passports and lined up for stamps, one student declared “I want to live in a house like this! I want to be like Mary McLeod!” Indeed, her legacy lives on in the eager young women dedicated to protecting the earth themselves and standing up for justice.

Girl Scouts Celebrate Women’s History Month

guest blog by Brittney McKeown, Girl Scouts of the USA

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we reflect on the need to ensure all girls have an opportunity to get outside. For over a century, providing girls with access to the outdoors and offering authentic leadership experiences have been cornerstone elements of the Girl Scout mission.

Girl Scouts gives girls access to the open space of the outdoors, an ideal setting in which girls can explore, observe, learn, and give back to their peers and their communities. We offer girls outdoor experiences in a safe, all-girl space where they are free to stretch their minds and expand their skills, gaining confidence as they take on new challenges. According to Girl Scout Research Institute’s More Than S’mores (2014), Girl Scouts are twice as likely as non-Girl Scouts to say they take action to protect the environment. From camping trips and outdoor adventures to our It’s Your Planet—Love It! Journey series, girls learn about environmental issues and develop their own sense of environmental stewardship. Girl Scouts is proud to have fostered this spirit in alumnae such as Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and numerous National Park Service rangers across the United States.

Girl Scouts is committed to expanding Girl Scouting in the outdoors, bringing outdoor experiences to girls from diverse backgrounds who are served by 112 Girl Scout councils across the country. We are grateful for partnerships such as the Girl Scout Ranger Program, a joint venture with the National Park Service that connects girls with national parks throughout the United States, including monuments, coastlines, and urban sites. Girls who have at least three outdoor experiences monthly eclipse their peers in environmental stewardship, more readily seek challenges, and are better problem solvers, all of which are traits needed for 21st century leaders.

Recognizing the drive and dedication of the women and girls around us today, Girls Scouts celebrates Women’s History Month. By working within coalitions such as Outdoors Alliance for Kids to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to experience the outdoors, Girl Scouts continues our century-long tradition of helping girls grow up to become environmental stewards and strong female leaders. Before they were leading scientists, military leaders, journalists, athletes, politicians, artists, or writers, many women were Girl Scouts themselves and celebrated Women’s History Month with their troops. When you think about that, it’s easy to realize the potential that each and every one of us has to make an impact.

Harlem Kids Connect with Nearby Nature as NYC Launches Every Kid in a Park Initiative

guest blog by Jackie Ostfeld, OAK Chair and Sierra Club Nearby Nature Director

Nothing warms my heart more than seeing children explore nature. This week, I was honored to attend the launch event for the Every Kid in a Park initiative in New York City at Hamilton Grange National Memorial in Harlem. At the Grange, nearly 200 fourth-graders received passes for free entry to our nation’s public lands, waters and shores. The passes, which also extend to the students’ families are part of President Obama’s program to inspire a new generation to get outside and become stewards of our nation’s cultural and natural heritage.
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National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, US Forest Service Chief Thomas L. Tidwell, Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlem Executive Director Dominique R. Jones, and others opened the event with some remarks about the significance of the Every Kid in a Park program. Clifford the Big Red Dog was on hand to bring smiles to the faces of the kids and help Scholastic make an announcement about new educational materials to support fourth grade classrooms across the country in getting students outdoors.

everykidnyclorenandcraigSierra Club’s New York City Inspiring Connections Outdoors volunteer leaders Craig Meisner and Patricia Ensworth joined me at the park to volunteer. When the kids arrived early, Craig sprung into action and kept them entertained with his Outings leader bag of tricks. Then Clifford arrived and stole the show.

Sierra Club Board Member and New York resident Loren Blackford was there, too, and had this to say about the launch, “today’s event is a good reminder of the joy and learning that comes with spending time outside. Everyone should have an opportunity to experience the wonders of nature no matter where they live. We look forward to continuing to engage the next generation in the next century of conservation.”

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), co-founded by the Sierra Club, showed up in force to provide nature-based activities for the kids.20151029_104931

REI taught the kids how to pitch a tent. And the kids taught REI just how many fourth graders can fit in their Half Dome.20151029_104950

Wilderness Inquiry brought their Voyageur canoes and the kids surprised themselves with just how easy it was to lift when they worked together. Wilderness Inquiry Executive Director Greg Lais said, “from Harlem to Yellowstone, Wilderness Inquiry wholeheartedly supports the Every Kid in a Park initiative. It’s amazing to see how excited these kids are when they first lay eyes on a Voyageur canoe. New York City is a priority for Wilderness Inquiry and we look forward to getting more kids from the Big Apple out on the river over the years.”20151029_114350

Discover Outdoors gave the fourth graders an opportunity to explore and learn about biodiversity. Discover Outdoors Founder and Executive Director, Kirk Reynolds said, “to lead tomorrow, New York City students need to be connected to nature today, where science is learned experientially, and character is shaped through team-work and adventure.”20151029_104240

And the kids loved their new bags from The North Face. Todd Spaletto, President of The North Face had this to say about the event, “The North Face is pleased to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative. At The North Face, we believe that exposure to the outdoors in a child’s life has many benefits, including being great for physical health, instilling a sense of adventure and developing a respect for the environment that remains in adulthood. We are proud to support President Obama in his effort to combat the decline of young people’s connection to the outdoors by introducing all young people to the wonders of exploration. Our hope is that by encouraging kids to explore early, they will go on to become conservation-minded, long-term stewards who will pass these beliefs on to the next generation.”everykidnycbanner

The NYC launch event was one of several happening across the country to inspire kids, especially those with limited opportunities to connect with nature, to visit our nation’s public lands. To realize President Obama’s ambitious vision to get all fourth graders in America outdoors, it’s going to take all of us. I am honored to support this effort and proud of all of our partners who time after time show up for our kids.

Give me an O. A. K.

guest blog by
Jackie Ostfeld, Sierra Club’s Nearby Nature Director and OAK Chair, and
Brenna Muller, Sierra Club’s Trails and OAK Program Manager

IMG_9364Give me an O. Give me an A. Give me a K. What’s that spell? “OAK” cheered 100s of fourth graders at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, on Tuesday during an annual meeting of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. This week was OAK’s fourth annual membership meeting and members from across the country gathered to celebrate the recent launch of President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative, participate in a strategy meeting, and take to Capitol Hill to advocate for programs and policies that connect children and youth with the outdoors.

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National Park Trust’s Buddy Bison greets the kids as they arrive at Rock Creek Park. “Sharing the great news about the Every Kid in a Park initiative was an exciting and historic way to kick off the 7th year of our Buddy Bison School Program,” stated National Park Trust Executive Director, Grace Lee. “The 4th grade students from two of our schools — Beacon Heights Elementary (Maryland) and Elsie Whitlow Stokes Public Charter School (Washington, D.C.) — are excited to use their free park passes to discover and explore new national park units this school year.”

Connecting 100 fourth graders from local Title 1 schools with an opportunity to Find Your Park was the highlight of the week for us, an important reminder of why we do what we do. Hundreds of smiling faces gathered acorns (OAK seeds) and took to the trail after receiving their Every Kid in a Park passes that will give them free entry to our federal lands, waters and shores for an entire year. Big thanks to Rock Creek Park and OAK member, National Park Trust for organizing the kids and bringing out the National Park Service mascot, Buddy Bison.

During the event we had the honor of hearing from Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, Kristin Bail, Assistant Director for National Conservation Lands and Partnerships at the Bureau of Land Management, Tara Morrison, Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, Aaron Mair, President of the Sierra Club and Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society. Dozens of additional OAK members helped to make the day a success including Izaak Walton League of America and the American Camp Association. Special thanks to REI and The North Face for providing the kids with bags, snacks and water bottles.

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“Guess who all of these places belong to,” asked Christy Goldfuss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “You. All of the public lands and waters in this country belong to all Americans.”
“During the National Park Service’s centennial celebration, we want everyone to get to know their national parks, and we’re offering a special invitation to fourth graders and their families to discover everything that national parks offer,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We hope these free passes for fourth graders will introduce 4th graders, their classes, and their families to our national treasures, places where they can run and play, explore and learn.”
“During the National Park Service’s centennial celebration, we want everyone to get to know their national parks, and we’re offering a special invitation to fourth graders and their families to discover everything that national parks offer,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We hope these free passes for fourth graders will introduce 4th graders, their classes, and their families to our national treasures, places where they can run and play, explore and learn.”
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Sierra Club President Aaron Mair gives 4th graders their passes.
“Getting outdoors with your family is fun, but it’s more than that. Because if you take care of nature, it will take care of you,” said Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society.
“Getting outdoors with your family is fun, but it’s more than that. Because if you take care of nature, it will take care of you,” said Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society.
Behind the scenes. OAK members getting it done.
Behind the scenes. The OAK members that make it all happen.

During the week, members of OAK’s steering committee also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with several bureaus of the Department of the Interior, making a commitment to collaborate to get more kids outdoors on public lands and waters.

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OAK steering committee members gather with the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation on the rooftop of the YMCA of the USA to put pen to paper and make this partnership official.

We also rolled up our sleeves to strategize about how we’ll start moving our efforts onto the ground. OAK members learned more about some of our city strategies including Every Kid in a Park, Let’s Move! Outside and the Cities Connecting Children with Nature projects.

OAK members meeting with Colorado Congressman Jared Polis during annual advocacy day.
OAK members meeting with Colorado Congressman Jared Polis during annual advocacy day.
Kyle MacDonald of The Outdoors Empowered Network (OAK Member) on Capitol Hill for advocacy day.
Kyle MacDonald of The Outdoors Empowered Network (OAK Member) on Capitol Hill for advocacy day.

Finally, we let members of Congress know that we need them to invest in our kids. During our annual Hill day, OAK members educated members of Congress about the Transportation Reauthorization, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act.