Tag Archives: nature

It’s Fresh Air Fitness Month!

Guest blog post by Marla Hollander, American Heart Association

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

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

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

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

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My kids canoeing in Lake Needwood, Maryland. Photo credit: Marla Hollander

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

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

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

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

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

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 #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

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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Outdoors Alliance for Kids Announces Inaugural OAK Leaf Awards

For Immediate Release

November 15, 2016

Contact: Jackie Ostfeld, jackie.ostfeld@sierraclub.org, 202-548-6584

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Announces Inaugural OAK Leaf Awards
REI, The North Face, National Park Trust, Children & Nature Network and National League of Cities honored for collaborative approach to getting kids outdoors

Washington, DC – Today, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced five recipients of the inaugural OAK Leaf Award which recognizes alliance members for their collaborative approach to support OAK’s policy or programmatic goals. REI, The North Face, National Park Trust, Children & Nature Network and the National League of Cities to receive the award during an OAK welcome reception for the annual gathering of the alliance, held at The Wilderness Society’s Ansel Adams Gallery.

Statements of OAK’s Leaf Award Recipients

“At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived. This is an especially important thought when we consider the daily lives of our younger generations. Unlike years past, it seems we need to make special efforts to assure kids from all backgrounds have chances to explore, play and learn outside,” said Marc Berejka, REI’s director of community and government affairs. “We’ve been an OAK supporter from its beginning, because OAK provides pivotal leadership at the national level.  We appreciate the recognition, and also look forward to continuing our investment in high-impact programs like this one.”

“We are proud to partner with OAK and many wonderful nonprofits like the National Park Trust to support President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative through our Explore Fund grants,” said The North Face senior director of Outdoor Exploration Ann Krcik. “By working together to bring outdoor experiences to youth, we hope to create the next generation of environmental stewards. Thank you OAK for this incredible honor.”

“National Park Trust is very honored to be recognized with an inaugural OAK Leaf Award. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is a tremendous resource and network that has allowed us to significantly expand our mission of preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow. Working together with the members of this alliance, we are able each year to engage tens of thousands of students from Title 1 schools across the country with our iconic parks and public lands, providing transformational park experiences. OAK is an excellent example of the power of partnerships,” stated executive director of the National Park Trust, Grace Lee.

“The OAK Leaf award recognizes the dedication of our seven Cities Connecting Children to Nature pilot cities in their work to enrich young lives, strengthen stewardship of our natural world and achieve equity in American cities,” said National League of Cities CEO and executive director Clarence E. Anthony. “NLC is proud to receive this award on their behalf and continue our significant work together.” The CCCN cities have been working diligently for the past year to plan equitable and abundant access to nature for their communities. “We look forward to seeing the impact of the cities’ work on children, families and communities, and we are honored to partner with OAK in advancing the field of children and nature,” said Children & Nature Network executive director Sarah Milligan-Toffler.

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids wouldn’t be what it is today without the passion of our members, new and old, large and small,” said OAK co-founder and chair, Jackie Ostfeld. “These awards couldn’t be more well-deserved. I look forward to continuing to work with this year’s OAK Leaf Award recipients to make major strides in the movement to get kids outdoors.”

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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 eighty businesses and organizations, led by a steering committee which includes representatives from the Alliance for Childhood, American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Latino Outdoors, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, NatureBridge, 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

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First ever OAK Leaf Award Recipients. OAK Week 2016. Photo Credit: National Park Trust

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.