Tag Archives: NWF

Nature Play Coming to Every Community

 OAK member guest blog by Allen Cooper, from National Wildlife Federation

originally published in Wildlife Promise

Every parent who has ever watched a child play in nature has cause to rejoice. NWF’s guide Nature Play & Learning Places: Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature shows how to design and manage nature play areas and bring them to children in every community.


One of the nature play areas featured in the guide is at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, a nature play area designed around a wildlife habitat theme.  The play area is a quarter-mile loop of adventure pods. Children can climb a tree, growl like a bear, hide out in a cougar’s den, weave a bird’s nest, and look for tracks. “From the beginning of the design process Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wanted this to be a nature inspired space for kids,” said Michelle Mathis, designer of the nature play area and a contributor to the guide. “So often we are asking families to drive to a park, hike to look at the park’s beautiful scenery, then walk back (while leaving no trace). One of the main goals of the design was to create opportunities for sensory engagement with nature. We wanted to create a lasting bond between the kids and the park.”

A Chance for Kids to Reconnect Nature

Nature Play & Learning Places is a project of the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at the College of Design, North Carolina State University. The guidelines draw from principal author Robin Moore’s extensive landscape design experience, case studies of 12 existing nature play areas across the country, and the contributions from the members of a national steering committee and a technical advisory committee, which consisted of representatives from more than 20 national organizations.

The project was funded by the US Forest Service. Children spend almost 40 hours a week on digital devices, and half the time outdoors than they did 20 years ago.  Nature play areas are an innovative way to reconnect kids with nature and build a lifelong bond with wildlife. “Nature play and learning places are an innovative and fun way to connect families with our public lands,” said Fran Mainella, former director of the National Park Service and a visiting scholar at Clemson University. “They can help us improve children’s health and learning and encourage appreciation for wildlife and natural systems.”

For a free download of the guide visit http://online.nwf.org/natureplayandlearning.

Camping Made Easy

OAK Member Guest Blog by Eric Bach and Irene Lam from Hipcamp

Camping should be simple. If I want to get outside with my family next weekend and camp by the ocean, I should be able to. However, after spending hours of searching online to answer these questions, we realized it really isn’t so easy.

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This was the inspiration for Hipcamp. We wanted to be able to answer basic questions such as, “where can I go camping next weekend with my dog and take a shower?” Or, “Where can I go camping with my family in a redwood forest where we can go fishing nearby?” Right now there are no places to find this information with real-time availability. With this in mind, Hipcamp has embarked on a journey to catalog all of the parks (starting in the gorgeous California, where we are based), and provide users with one simple, easy-to-use interface where they can find park overviews, detailed descriptions of available activities for families and kids, insider tips, park history, and real time availability for camping; it really is camping made easy.

By making this process more accessible and compiling the fragmented data into a “one-stop shop,” we save users time. Instead of sitting in front of the screen with 50 different tabs open trying to book a campsite for Yosemite, users can visit Hipcamp, see what campsites and activities are available, get a feel for the park through the written content and photography, and reserve their spot, all under ten minutes. This is beneficial for families who want to take their kids camping, but might not have the time to plan a trip or have never camped before.

We’re also a great resource for discovering new family vacation spots. Instead of heading to the same place every year, you can be inspired to try new, awesome parks that you otherwise might never hear about. We want families to have fun exploring together, to find all the necessary accommodations and exciting adventures they dream about.

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We think it is important for people, especially children, to get outside to connect with nature and their loved ones. In this digital age it is becoming harder and harder to unplug from it all. At Hipcamp, we use technology to get people away from technology, something that is becoming increasingly important. It may be difficult to turn off your phone and ignore your email for a few days, but it’s necessary to recharge your own batteries every now and then. Unplugging also sets a positive example for kids– they need to realize that their worlds do not have to revolve around technology either. Kids should feel as excited about the outdoors as they do about getting a new high score on 2048!

By reaching out to local organizations and nonprofits, we are spreading the word about the necessity of reconnecting with nature. We recently signed on as supporters of OAK member National Wildlife Federation‘s “Be Out There” campaign to get more kids outdoors. We are also celebrating July as Park and Recreation month with another OAK member, the National Recreation and Park Association, by volunteering in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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We imagine a world where children, youth and families can have a positive connection with nature and that’s why we joined OAK. We believe in the power of being unplugged in the outdoors, and we understand the necessity of conserving natural land. It’s our mission to ensure that the next generation is healthier and happier.