Tag Archives: children

Every Kid in a Park: Youth Blog Series Post #3 with the National Military Family Association

 

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Every Kid in a Park: Youth Blog Series Post #3
Guest Blog with Tiaira D. from the National Military Family Association

Tiaira D. is a young lady from North Carolina who visited a national park for the first time through National Military Family Association (NMFA) family program. At age 18, she is far from a fourth grader, but her family trip outdoors is similar of many fourth graders who experience parks for the first time using their Every Kid in a Park pass. Even more special, these trips for military families help kids connect with their parents, away from the stress and challenges of deployment. With opportunities like Operation Purple and Every Kid in a Park, families can embrace the outdoors in ways they have never imagined and hope to return to see more. Read about the trip Taira enjoyed with her family this past July.

 

What’s your name, age, and where are you from?

Tiaira: Tiaira D., age 18, from Greensboro, North Carolina

Was this your first time visiting Grand Teton National Park?

Tiaira: Yes.

Who did you do Operation Purple with?

Tiaira: I did Operation Purple with my Mom, Dad, and two sisters.

If you had the opportunity, would you have liked to visit a national park sooner? If so, why?

Tiaira: Yes, I would have loved to have visited a national park sooner just for the different perspective I got from being at one park. Being outdoors walking the trails and observing everything around me was the best, it was all too much to take in at once but I loved it.

Can you describe the park and what you saw?

Tiaira: The park was very beautiful, quiet, and clean. Walking through the trails in the park, and being able to learn about the different pine trees, flowers and rocks we saw was very interesting. I saw a very strong waterfall that had a bridge over it so while walking across on parts of it you could feel some of the water splash up. Not too far from this was a stream that went throughout part of the trail which was very pretty and cold.

What activities did you do at the park?

Tiaira: An activity we did at the park was given to us by our instructors. My family of 5 was split into 2 groups: a group of 2 and a group of 3. Each of us throughout the group had a chance at being blindfolded and guided to a tree of the unblinded person/s choice. The person blindfolded could use their five senses and do whatever was necessary for them. Once the person blindfolded felt comfortable enough we guided them back to where they started, unblindfolded them, and let them find the tree they thought they were guided too. That person after finding out if their guess was right or not being given a booklet with different trees had to find the name of it, and read the information given to their self and the group.

Another activity we did was picking a rock of our choice and walking with it, observing it until we reached a bridge with the lake under. Once there we talked about our rock and threw it into the water whenever we felt we were ready.

Where do your parents work?

Tiaira: My mom is Active Duty Military, ARMY. My dad is a truck driver.

So, were you excited to be with your family during this retreat? Why?

Tiaira: Yes, I was very excited, and ready to experience everything. In fact, I didn’t think we would have got to do and see as much as we did. The trip there, and while there was so much fun. Being able experience something this amazing as being in Wyoming was too much to take in.  Seeing the mountains that still had snow, canoeing, trail walking, trail making, and everything else we got to do was overall great! We all got to be together for the week and experience it all and more. Working together and hearing one another’s point on whatever it was about was always something to look forward to. More knowledge! Also having more time to spend as a family, being happy and not so stressed while on the trip was also exciting so I enjoyed every minute.

What is your happiest memory from visiting the Grand Teton National Park?

Tiaira: Being able to sit by the lake with the mountains behind us, with my family and our instructors while eating lunch together.

Would you like to go back or visit more parks soon? Why?

Tiaira: Yes, visiting again or going to other parks is something I may consider. If I do go to a park then I will most likely do a good mile run, and afterwards a good walk to see what it all must offer. I consider going back, and or visiting more parks soon because of the different perspective I’ve gotten from visiting the Grand Teton National Park. The different trees, rocks, the mountains, the plants and everything else that may be there, or at any park has a story as to how it may have formed, been brought or put there.

What is your favorite thing to do outdoors in general?

Tiaira: My favorite thing to do outdoors is swimming.

What advice would you give a future student who is going on a family retreat to a national park?

Tiaira: My advice to a future student who’s going on a family retreat to a national park would be to learn as much as you can while you’re there by yourself and with your family. Asking lots of questions, listening, observing, and learning about the different trees, and whatever else that may interest you can give you a whole different perspective on nature so I highly recommend it. Spending time with your family meaning talking about what you see/seen, what you’ve learned or want to learn is also something that may help you all understand, or even bring you closer since it’s a common interest.

Why do you think it’s important it’s important for kids like you to spend time outdoors with their families?

Tiaira: Spending time outdoors rather than being inside can bring a whole different part of your family out. There are so many activities or things in general that could bring you together, even if it’s just cleaning a car or mowing the lawn. Finding something, anything that your family may enjoy doing outside to get fresh air, and be together is not only important but fun!

 

Tiaira has just graduated high school with the Class of 2017 and is preparing to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test so she can follow in her mom’s footsteps to join the U.S. Army.

Similar to the Every Kid in a Park pass, active military members can also receive a free annual park pass for themselves and their families to enjoy. The Free Annual U.S. Military pass is for current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard as well as Reserve and National Guard members.

The National Military Family Association is the leading nonprofit dedicated to serving the families who stand behind the uniform. Since 1969, NMFA has worked to strengthen and protect millions of families through its advocacy and programs. They provide spouse scholarships, camps for military kids, and retreats for families reconnecting after deployment and for the families of the wounded, ill, or injured. NMFA serves the families of the currently serving, veteran, retired, wounded or fallen members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA. To get involved or to learn more, visit www.MilitaryFamily.org.

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Photos provided National Military Family Association

EVERY KID IN A PARK – YOUTH BLOG SERIES: POST #2

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Every Kid in a Park – Youth Blog Series, Post #2
Interview with Evie E. & Louise R., former Every Kid in a Park pass users

Evie E. and Louise R. are both rising sixth-graders at Creative Minds International Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. They were both invited to speak at OAK’s Congressional Lunch Briefing on July 11, 2017 to talk about their experiences outdoors. Before the event, they were interviewed by Isabel Argoti, OAK/NPS Community Assistance Fellow, and Katie Brantley, Sierra Club Digital Storytelling Fellow. Evie and Louise’s speeches given during the briefing were recorded live.


What’s your name, age, and grade?

Evie: I’m Evie and I’m 11 going into the sixth grade.

Louise: And I’m Louise, also 11 and also going into the sixth grade.

What do you love about the outdoors and what do you like to do outside?

Evie: Outdoors is peaceful and relaxing, and you can think about stuff. And it helps things grow, which it also helps us grow. Like vegetables.

Louise: I like the feeling of being independent outdoors, where you can just free-roam and explore and discover new plants and insects and animals.

Where did you get your Every Kid in a Park pass?

Louise: We went on a school trip and they handed them out. It was the US Arboretum.

Evie: There was also another school there.

Which parks have you been to?

Evie: Assateague Island National Seashore, Rock Creek Park, and Prince William Forest Park.

Louise: C&O Canal National Historical Park, National Mall, Rock Creek Park which is really close to my house. And Prince William Forest Park.

What did you like to do there? What was your favorite part about your visit?

Evie: At Prince William, we actually went camping there with our class in cabins. And at Rock Creek, I like to go hiking.

Louise: Me, too. Sometimes with my family, we’ll go on a family hike because it’s so close to our house. And sometimes we’ll walk along the C&O Canal and hike along the rocks.

What advice do you have for a future fourth grader who is about to receive their Every Kid in a Park pass?  

Louise: Try to get your parents to have the family travel somewhere far. Also let the pass be a reminder to you to get outdoors even if it’s not a huge national park.

Evie: I have two sisters–one of them had the pass last year and the other is getting the pass this year and so I think my advice would be to look through the book or website when you first get the pass. Try to choose a park that is the farthest away from you so you can go on a long road trip and so you can find stuff that wouldn’t be in a park nearer to you, so you can learn new stuff and discover new, fun, exciting things.

 

The school trips in which Evie and Louise received their passes were sponsored field trips by the National Park Trust. The National Park Trust, a 501(c)(3) non profit, is dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow, and is an incredible supporter of the Every Kid in a Park program. Since 2009,​ the Buddy Bison School Program and national Kids to Parks Day have engaged 3,000,000 students across the country with our nation’s parks, public lands and waters (ParkTrust.org).

 

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EKIP Postcards

This is the second in a series of blogs highlighting students who have used, or are gearing up to use, their Every Kid in a Park pass.

RELEASE: Lawmakers introduce bipartisan legislation to get children outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JULY 12, 2017

Contact: Jackie Ostfeld; 202-548-6584; contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Lawmakers introduce bipartisan legislation to get children outdoors

Washington, DC — Members of congress on both sides of the aisle just came together to help get our kids outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act (S. 1522; H.R. 3186), introduced by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-MA-03), Scott Tipton (R-CO-03), Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) would encourage fourth graders and their families to visit America’s natural, cultural, and historical treasures. The bill authorizes the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to administer a pass program to provide free entry for fourth graders and their families to visit our national public lands, waters, and shores.

In response to the introduction of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, OAK members issued the following statements:

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids applauds the introduction of new bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for children to get outdoors. Today’s youth spend more time indoors than any generation in history, with dire consequences for their health and well-being. The Every Kid Outdoors Act is a low-cost, common sense solution to encourage children to get active and learn about the public lands, waters and shores that make America so special. This legislation will help turn the tide on a generation left inside and OAK looks forward to working across the aisle to see this bill signed into law.” – Jackie Ostfeld, Co-Founder and Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“Every child deserves the opportunity to get outdoors, regardless of where they live. We applaud the bipartisan Every Kid Outdoors Act which would encourage more children and families to explore and enjoy America’s public lands. The Sierra Club looks forward to the passage of this critical legislation and will help make this vision a reality as part of our ongoing work to ensure everyone has access to nature.” – Loren Blackford, President, Sierra Club

“The Every Kid Outdoors Act is a powerful way to make it easier for youth to explore our parks and public lands. We believe that exposure to outdoor spaces helps encourage a lifelong sense of adventure and respect for the environment for youth and their families, something we value deeply at The North Face. Together with the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the Every Kid in a Park program, we can help every child experience our parks and public lands.” – Arne Arens, President, The North Face

“The Wilderness Society applauds the introduction of the Every Kid Outdoors (EKO) Act, which authorizes the Every Kid in a Park program, providing free entry for fourth graders and their families to visit our parks, monuments and other public lands. We are proud to support the important work of the Every Kid in a Park program that is a part of the national effort to break down barriers to access and connect more young Americans with wild places. Our public lands belong to all of us and the EKO Act will help kids have a chance to visit and discover America’s unique outdoor wonders.” – Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society

“We enthusiastically support the Every Kid in a Park program to connect all 4th graders to our public lands. Connecting children to nature is critically important to their health and well-being, and to the future of our shared outdoor heritage. We commend all the public private partnerships that have come together to provide transportation support, one of the factors limiting too many children’s opportunities to benefit from nature in their everyday lives.” – Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children & Nature Network

“The National Recreation and Park Association applauds the Every Kid in a Park program to connect every fourth grader to a park. Our members stand ready to welcome young students in communities across the country to explore the many close-to-home public parks and recreation opportunities, and encourage all children regardless of age, race or background to discover all of our nation’s parks!” Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO, National Recreation and Park Association

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

“On behalf of our Corps and the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), we congratulate Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-MA-03), Scott Tipton (R-CO-03), and Diana DeGette (D-CO-01) for the introduction of the bi-partisan Every Kid Outdoors Act, and thank them for their dedication to ensuring quality outdoor opportunities for children and youth. We look forward to helping develop and lead activities that engage and educate kids outdoors and continue stewardship of public lands and waters to ensure safe and accessible spaces for recreation. Increased opportunity through this legislation for kids and youth to get outside, recreate, and experience all the outdoors has to offer will boost our $887 billion recreation economy and develop the next generation of outdoor leaders and entrepreneurs.” Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President of The Corps Network and Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC)

“​YMCA of the USA fully endorses the Every Kid Outdoors legislation and the vision and mission it inspires. To show our commitment to the legislation, the Y will continue to encourage local YMCAs across the country to provide healthy outdoor experiences at local, state and national parks to the 970,000 children and youth that participate in summer camping programs. Additionally, YMCA will continue to work in 50 cities, thanks to continued support from American Express to support Every Kid in a Park through existing activities and partnerships on public lands. Through these 50 cities partnerships in 2015 and 2016, 650,000 youth and 775,000 adults volunteered on public lands—with 70% of the volunteer activities in National Parks. Ys in 10 cities will continue their partnership with National Park Service sites to give thousands of children their first camp and National Park experience and to engage teens in their first employment opportunity in a camp program—a total of 15,750 children and youth were served in 2015 and 2016.” – Katie Adamson, Senior Director Health Partnerships and Policy, YMCA of the USA

“National Park Trust is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of park stewards through its youth education programs – Kids to Parks Day and the Buddy Bison School Program. The Every Kid in a Park initiative has been a critical partner in this effort and NPT fully supports the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which if enacted, will ensure that the next generation of children will have inspirational outdoor experiences through direct engagement with our nation’s parks and historic treasures.” – Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“Outdoor activities are essential and popular elements of the Girl Scout experience and provide opportunities for girls to discover, connect, and take action out-of-doors in ways that build courage, confidence, and character. The inclusive, girl-led, all female environment of a Girl Scout troop creates a safe space in which girls develop a range of skills, take leadership roles, and explore their potential. According to research, 9 out of 10 girls who participated in a monthly outdoor activity found that it directly provided them with the opportunity to try new things, improve skills, take risks and help other girls. These experiences increase girls’ understanding and curiosity about the natural world, build outdoor skills, and adventure opportunities that drive girls’ interest, competence and confidence to become environmental stewards.” – Sylvia Acevedo, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA

“The Trust for Public Land applauds the introduction of the Every Kid Outdoors Act to connect 4th graders with public lands. Connecting our children and their families to the outdoors – as this bill will do – is important to a healthy future. The Trust for Public Land has established a vision goal of creating a park within a 10-minute walk of everyone in America’s cities. We will work to leverage the goals of the Every Kid in a Park program as it encourages other to adopt the 10-minute walk standard for providing nearby access to parks and open space.” – Will Rogers, President & CEO, Trust for Public Land

Outdoor Afro enthusiastically supports the Every Kid in a Park program. Outdoor Afro celebrates and inspires African American connections to nature. We do this with our team of 65 trained outdoor recreation and conservation leaders, representing 30 states with over 24,000 outdoor event participants of all ages. We also reach millions more through a coordinated social media effort that has successfully shifted the visual representation and narrative of who gets outdoors.” – Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO, Outdoor Afro

“As a father, climber and CEO of the American Alpine Club, I have spent most of my professional life unveiling the wonders of our country’s mountains to kids and adults. With the passage of Every Kid Outdoors Act, all fourth graders and their families will have the chance to experience the spirit of adventure and exploration on our federal lands and waters, without cost. Any climber will tell you that achievement depends upon your vision and your dreams. We’re optimistic about what fourth graders will achieve when they get to experience the magic of our public lands.” – Phil Powers, Executive Director, American Alpine Club

“Now more than ever we must join forces to give future generations the same opportunities we enjoyed to experience the great outdoors. EKO 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

“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 look forward to the swift passage of 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

“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. Every Kid in a Park 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

“This legislation is long overdue, and if passed, will tell the American public that Congress is willing to work together for our nation’s children.” – Kyle Macdonald, Executive Director, Outdoors Empowered Network

“The impact of outdoor activity on the long-term success for youth has been consistently demonstrated. SOS Outreach is proud to be a part of the Every Kid in a Park program and supports the passage of Every Kid Outdoors Act. We look forward to the expansion of opportunities for youth to benefit from experience with their public lands.” – Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director, SOS Outreach

“The North American Association for Environmental Education joins colleagues and partners in applauding the introduction of the bipartisan Every Kid Outdoors Act. Our nation’s parks and public lands provide unparalleled outdoor environmental education experiences for tens of thousands of children and their families each year. These authentic learning opportunities are essential to inspiring today’s youth to become lifelong stewards of natural resources and providing them with knowledge and skills for success in the 21st century workforce.” – Judy Braus, Executive Director, North American Association for Environmental Education

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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

 

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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.

RELEASE: OUTDOORS ALLIANCE FOR KIDS SUPPORTS HEALTHY KIDS OUTDOORS ACT TO RECONNECT KIDS WITH NATURE

For Immediate Release                                                                    

Contacts:
Christina Batcheler
703-438-6098
batchelerc@nwf.org

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Supports Healthy Kids Outdoors Act to Reconnect Kids with Nature 

New Legislation Aims To Connect Youth with the Outdoors

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2015) – Today, Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) and Congressman Ron Kind (WI) introduced legislation aimed at connecting youth and families with the outdoors. Supported by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would support state, local and federal strategies to reconnect Americans with nature, keep wildlife wild, and support future economic growth and conservation efforts.

Those who do not spend time in nature are less likely to protect it – leaving our nation’s vast national resources at risk. This legislation will give more visibility to the value of alternative and expanding learning environments can have in significantly improving academic achievement in reading, math and science and will encourage kids and families to be active outdoors through unstructured play; outdoor recreation such as camping, hiking, hunting and fishing; public health initiatives; outdoor learning centers; service learning and other programs.

“The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would enrich the lives of our children, improve public health, and benefit our outdoor recreation economy,” Senator Heinrich said. By taking a holistic approach to improving child well-being, this bill would provide our kids the opportunity to gain hands-on outdoor education, while giving them an introduction and lifelong connection to conservation and all that the natural world has to offer.”

“Young people today spend less time participating in outdoor activities than ever before,” Congressman Kind said. “This bill gives our state and local leaders the tools they need to find new ways to promote active, healthy outdoor lifestyles for kids in Wisconsin and across the nation. If they start early in life, young people will be more likely to care for their health and natural surroundings as adults and then pass those values on to future generations.”

The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would provide incentives for states to develop dynamic five-year strategies to reconnect children and families to the great outdoors. The act would also compel the President to involve federal agencies and national partners to create a similar plan at the national level and support further research documenting the health, conservation and other benefits of active time spent outdoors in the natural world.

“NWF has worked to connect people with nature for decades so that they will form a deeper desire to protect wildlife and wild places,” said Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training for National Wildlife Federation.  “We applaud Congressman Kind and Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation to bring families outside seeing wild places on a regular basis.”

“A life-long passion for conservation, hunting and fishing, and active outdoor recreation begins at a young age,” said Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will help children and families to get outside and experience the natural world around them.”

“Many local and state park agencies currently partner with schools to provide environmental education programs, where trained and knowledgeable staff provide benefits to students and teachers through “hands-on” learning,” said Kevin O’Hara, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Recreation and Park Association. These experiences stimulate the student’s learning process and curiosity in a manner that cannot be achieved simply through the classroom. By educating our children on the importance of the environment and world around them through “field” experience, we promote the future of conservation, stewardship, as well as advances in environmental science. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act provides important incentives aimed at reconnecting youth and families with nature and fostering education and stewardship.”

“Childhood is the best time for instilling a love for the outdoors,” says Jackie Ostfeld, Nearby Nature Director at the Sierra Club and Co-Founding Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “Whether it’s a lack of access to nearby parks and green spaces, safety, school budget cuts or over-scheduled families, today’s kids face many challenges to spending time in nature with repercussions for their health and wellness. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will help tear down barriers and encourage greater participation in the natural world. Sierra Club and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids applaud Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind for their leadership to improve the health and wellness of kids across this nation by getting them active and outdoors.”

“The Y believes that when kids stretch their legs, explore the outdoors, and connect with the world around them, they are improving their physical, social, and emotional health,” said YMCA of the USA Senior Director of Health Partnerships and Policy Katie Adamson. “The confidence and creativity that develop as a result of experiencing nature is an essential component of the holistic development of youth. The Y is excited to work with Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind on this important effort to connect children and their families with nature.”

“Now, more than ever, it is important to develop new strategies for getting children outdoors reconnecting to nature,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy for The Wilderness Society. “Kids need stimulating alternatives to smart phones and computers, alternatives that are educational and promote physical activity. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will encourage states to provide opportunities for recreation and education in the great outdoors. We thank Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind for championing this important legislation.”

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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 seventy businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Wilderness Inquiry outfitted over 400 people with PFDs and paddles to get ready to explore the river in 24' Voyageur canoes

Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors

by Dr. Jill Biden

Originally published on the White House Joining Forces Blog

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As we mark the second anniversary of Joining Forces and celebrate the Month of the Military Child, April gives us the opportunity to celebrate our nation’s youngest heroes—the children whose parents serve in our Armed Forces.

Military children face many unique challenges – on average, they attend six to nine different school systems by the time they graduate from high school. Through each transition, they have to leave their friends, try out for new sports teams, and adjust to a new school.

As a teacher, I have been so pleased to see the progress we are making to raise awareness and understanding about how to help military children in the classroom. Through Joining Forces, more than 100 colleges of teacher education have signed on to Operation Educate the Educatorsan effort to help better prepare future teachers to help military children in the classroom.

But as a military mother and grandmother, it is important to me that we are supporting our military children outside the classroom as well.

That’s why I’m delighted to see that, for the third consecutive year, the Sierra ClubBlue Star Families, theNational Military Family Association, the Children & Nature Network, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other partners will join forces for the Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors.

Getting children outdoors is a wonderful way to help them reduce stress and anxiety and improve physical fitness. It can also help bring families back together following a deployment.

Most of all, Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors is about creating opportunities for military children to explore and enjoy the beautiful land that they and their families have sacrificed to protect.

This year’s celebration kicked off with a family-friendly event on Saturday, April 6th just outside Washington, D.C., in Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park. There was hiking, fishing, tent races, and plenty of opportunities for hundreds of military kids to have fun outdoors, enjoy the natural world with their families and simply know that they are loved. There will be additional events and hikes happening across the country all spring long. Visit sierraclub.org/GETOUT for the full listing.

The Month of the Military Child is a time to remind ourselves that it is not just the service members who serve. It is also their families. We cannot make all the challenges of being a military child disappear, but we can make sure they know we’re standing beside them. And a great step forward is a program like this one, helping military kids and their families have fun and reconnect in the fresh air of nature.