Tag Archives: family

Pisces Foundation: Investments in People and Nature Thriving Together

– Interview with Jason Morris, Pisces Foundation, by Jackie Ostfeld, Outdoors Alliance for Kids 

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The Pisces Foundation is working to advance strategic solutions to natural resource challenges and prepare the next generation by supporting environmental education. Pisces believes if we act now and boldly, we can quickly accelerate to a world where people and nature thrive together. Pisces mainstreams powerful new solutions to support innovators who know what it takes and are doing what’s necessary to have clean and abundant water, a safe climate, and kids with the environmental know-how to create a sustainable world.

I asked Jason Morris, Environmental Education Senior Program Officer at the Pisces Foundation, to share his thoughts on where the movement to connect kids with the outdoors is heading. The Pisces Foundation is a new supporter of OAK and we’re honored by their commitment to the field. Enjoy the interview here.


Jason, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your own interest in environmental education. Why is this field important to you personally?

For me, like many in the environmental education field, nature has shaped who I am and what I do.

When I was 12 years old, I lived for the summer. I would fish in the canal by my house, care for the animals on my family’s farm, and explore the wonders of the natural world as often as I could. I remember one of my first camping trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. It was right after the first snowfall of the year. My family stumbled upon a huge meadow, where it seemed like every elk in the entire world had gathered. I was mesmerized. I stood there and stared as they grazed and mingled. For a moment, I felt like part of the herd. I was completely struck by an overwhelming feeling—awe. This story, among thousands of other experiences I’ve had in nature throughout my life, stands out to me. I share this story because feeling awe, even for a moment, can truly shake the foundation of what we believe.

As a kid, I yearned to be in nature as often as possible. Growing up, I always hoped to experience the natural world, at home, at work, and at play. I have made it my life’s work to ensure that more people, at all ages, get to experience the benefits of nature—and not just in the summer!

Tell us about the hopes and dreams the Pisces Foundation has for environmental education?

At Pisces Foundation, we believe that when kids gain the environmental know-how they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world, we’ll see smarter decisions, stronger communities, and daily actions that improve their well-being and our planet. Environmental education is a proven way to get kids more engaged in learning and active and healthy outdoors. We see that more and more schools, states, and communities are tapping into the many benefits that come with environmental education and making it a part of every child’s experience. Our hope is that every child receives the benefits of environmental education. Environmental education is not a one-time event. It’s a series of life experiences that allow children to grow into adults who embrace responsible behaviors in order to make smarter decisions about the world. Research has shown that the benefits of environmental education can be immediate and long-lasting.

With so many pressing environmental challenges, like climate change, why is it also important for environmental organizations and the philanthropy community to invest in environmental education and getting kids outdoors?

I’m glad you asked this question, because it’s important to think of environmental education as an immediate investment as well as an investment in our future. Environmental education leads to gains in conservation, education, health and wellness, social justice, and youth development. Many of these benefits improve our communities and our planet today. And, kids who experience environmental education can grow up to be responsible, well-prepared citizens, ready to make the choices and decisions necessary to solve the pressing environmental challenges of tomorrow. We know that the sooner we act, the sooner we see the benefits. Solving environmental challenges and investing in environmental education are not an “either-or” division. They are important “both/and” investments that mutually reinforce one another. Both are integral components to get to the point where people and nature can thrive together.

On behalf of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, I cannot thank you and the Pisces Foundation enough for investing in our mission to advocate for equitable and readily available opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors. As we enter our first year of collaboration with Pisces, do you have any advice for OAK and our alliance member organizations on how we can work together to expand and improve not just access, but equity in access, to the outdoors and outdoor learning opportunities for children and youth?

Research has shown that environmental learning levels the playing field, across gender and ethnicity. We know that outdoor experiences improve children’s self-esteem, leadership, and character. We know that unstructured play outdoors improves mental and physical health. We know that environmental learning sticks with kids more than traditional learning, that it stokes interest in science, and that it sparks the curiosity that makes kids better learners. We know all of this, yet the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.

What we need is to connect children with nature. Not just some children—all children. Every child not only deserves access to nature, every child requires it. In order to deliver this to every child, we can no longer imagine nature only in the iconic treasured landscapes. To give every child the opportunity to form a lasting connection with nature, we must find nature nearby. We have to re-imagine what and where nature is. Through environmental education, we can give all kids the opportunity to experience the world that left me awe-struck as a 12-year-old. Whether it’s in a meadow watching a herd of elk, or in a city park staring up at a big oak tree, or in their own backyard discovering the joy of nearby nature, environmental education delivers.

How did you get outdoors with your family this summer?

My wife, daughter, and I spent an amazing week along the Metolius River in eastern Oregon. Surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness, we wandered along the banks of the river, canoed across a stunning mountain lake, and biked through the sun-drenched massive pine forest. A perfect opportunity to boost our spirit and nourish our passion for wild places.

Every Kid in a Park: Youth Blog Series: Post #4 Natalia (Bilingual)

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Every Kid in a Park – Youth Blog Series, Post #4
Interview with Natalia A., former Every Kid in a Park pass user, in English and Spanish

Natalia A. just finished 5th grade at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Maryland. She participated in the Every Kid in a Program in its first year and was able to visit Shenandoah National Park for the first time last summer. Natalia’s family is originally from Ecuador.

Can you introduce yourself?

Natalia: Hi I’m Natalia, I’m 11 and I’m in the 5th grade. And I participated in the Every Kid in a Park program.

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

Natalia: I went online on the Every Kid in a Park website, took the activity/course and printed the pass.

What park did you visit and who did you go with?

Natalia: I visited to the Shenandoah National Park with my mom, dad, and grandma.

Can you describe the park?

Natalia: It has really pretty views of Luray, Virginia and you get see a lot of wildlife like bears and other animals. I saw a black bear!

What did you at Shenandoah National Park?

Natalia: We went on one of the hiking trails and we stopped at one of the places where you drive to the views to take pictures there.

What was your happiest memory at the park?

Natalia: Getting to go on the hike and look at the mini waterfalls. And all the nature and trees.

Was this your first time at Shenandoah National Park?

Natalia: Yeah, it was my first time!

Would you like to visit Shenandoah again or visit more parks?

Natalia: Yeah, I think it really enhances our point of view on how we see not just a local park but how it could be much more than that.

What’s your favorite activity to do outside?

Natalia: I think hike and take pictures. I like to look at things and sometimes research them afterwards to see what it is.

Why do you like to go to parks?

Natalia: We get to explore things and see things we’ve never seen before. We get to learn about not only the park but its history.

Are you happy you received your Every Kid in a Park pass?

Natalia: Yes. I think it opens up a lot of possibilities where you can explore different things that you can’t look out your window and see everyday.


Natalia will be going to a magnet middle school specializing in a Mathematics, Science, Computer Science Program. She is enjoying her summer on the local swim team and crafting projects of all sorts. She went back to visit Shenandoah National Park during National Park Week.


Natalia A. recién acabo el quinto grado en la escuela de Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary en el estado de Maryland. Natalia participó en el programa “Todos los niños en un parque” (o “Every Kid in a Park”) durante el primer año y fue con su familia a visitar al Parque Nacional de Shenandoah en Virginia. La familia de Natalia son inmigrantes de Ecuador.

Te puedes introducir porfavor?

Hola me llamo Natalia, tengo 11 años, estoy en quinto grado y participe en el programa EKIP.

Cómo recibiste tu pase del programa Every Kid in a Park?

Fui al website y complete la actividades.

A donde fuiste con tu pase y con quien?

Me fui al parque nacional de Shenandoah con mi papa, mama, y mi abuela.

Que viste en el parque?

Vi a los animales, árboles, y había cascadas de agua.

Que hiciste en el parque?

Camine en uno de los caminos del parque y paramos a ver las vistas en donde puedes llegar manejando para ver a Virginia.

Cual es tu memoria más positiva del parque?

Poder ver a los animales y la naturaleza.

Era tu primera vez visitando al parque de Shenandoah?

Si, era mi primera vez visitando Shenandoah.

Te gustaría regresar a Shenandoah o visitar más parques?

Si me gustaria visitar a otros parques o a Shenandoah. Porque podemos ver algo más de lo que vemos cada día de nuestra ventana y poder aprender de cosas que no hemos conocido antes.

Estas feliz que recibiste tu pase de Every Kid in a Park?

Si estoy feliz porque pude aprender de otras cosas y pude ir a explorar.


Natalia continuará a una escuela especializada en cursos de matemáticas, ciencia, y computación el próximo año. Está pasando su verano en el equipo de natación y completando proyectos manuales. Regreso al parque nacional de Shenandoah durante la semana de parques nacionales.

Sobre el programa de Every Kid in a Park (o “Todos Los Niños en un Parque”):

Como parte del compromiso para proteger los espacios naturales de nuestra nación y garantizar que cada estadounidense tiene la oportunidad de visitarlos y disfrutarlos, el programa Todos los niños en un parque permite a todos los escolares de cuarto grado visitar la página www.everykidinapark.gov y obtener ahí un pase de acceso gratuito para ellos y sus familias a más de 2000 sitios terrestres y acuáticos a cargo del gobierno federal en todo el país durante todo un año.

Todos los niños en un parque es un esfuerzo de agencias gubernamentales con el apoyo del Departamento de Interior (que incluye el Servicio de Parques Nacionales, la Oficina de Administración de Tierras, la Oficina de Recuperación de Tierras, y el Servicio de Pesca y Fauna Silvestre), el Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército, el Servicio Forestal y la Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica.

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