Tag Archives: White House

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: White House Honors “Champions of Change” for connecting youth with the outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 17, 2014

Contacts: Jackie Ostfeld, Sierra Club – 202-821-8877; jackie.ostfeld@sierraclub.org; Paul Sanford, The Wilderness Society – 202-429-2616; paul_sanford@tws.org

White House Honors “Champions of Change” for connecting youth with the outdoors

Several OAK members to receive award

Washington, DC — Tomorrow, fourteen Champions of Change will be honored at the White House for their efforts to engage the next generation of conservationists through outdoor recreation and physical activity. The honorees are helping to fulfill Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s youth initiative by ensuring that young people and communities have opportunities to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. Several champions are members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK).

“Thank you to the White House and Secretary Jewell for raising the voices of these exemplary change agents who are bridging the gap between young people and the outdoors,” says OAK’s co-founder and chair, Jackie Ostfeld. “Kudos to all the champs who are setting young people on a course to improve their health and well-being, establish lifelong connections with nature, and lead tomorrow’s conservation movement.”

Many of today’s champions are members of OAK:

Anthony Ciocco, of the Mvskoke tribe, is a Crew Leader for the Ancestral Lands Program at the Southwest Conservation Corps, a program of Conservation Legacy, leading ecological restoration crews on the Navajo Nation. Under Anthony’s leadership, crews of local Native youth work to rebuild damaged ecosystems and build trails to provide access to the outdoors for local communities.

Dr. Benjamin Blonder, co-founded the University of Arizona’s Sky School, a residential science school that provides inquiry-based environmental education on a campus located in the heart of the Coronado National Forest. Because of his efforts, each year hundreds of K-12 students, primarily from Title I schools, are now able to conduct independent research while exploring the unique ecology, geology, and astronomy resources of the region. Benjamin’s vision for the Sky School was inspired by his AmeriCorps service in central Idaho at the McCall Outdoor Science School, a NSF-supported teaching fellowship in a Tucson public school, and his long-term volunteer leadership with the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program, which provides opportunities for urban youth to experience nature.

Bill Hodge is the Director of the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, or “SAWS,” a project of The Wilderness Society. SAWS engages high school and college students in on-the-ground public lands stewardship projects in the National Forests of Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. Through these programs, SAWS engages young people in active volunteerism and helps to develop the next generation of public lands stewards.

Jon Brito served three AmeriCorps terms with Kupu’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps from 2008 to 2013, as a team member, team leader, and a year-long intern. During these terms, Jon engaged local youth and community members on the rural island of Moloka’i in critical environmental community service and indigenous cultural practices. Jon’s commitment to serving the island’s land and people has helped protect and restore countless endangered native Hawaiian species and habitats, perpetuate native Hawaiian knowledge and culture, and has inspired other local youth and community members to take an active part in the conservation movement on Molokai.

Na’Taki Osborne Jelks is a nationally-recognized leader in engaging urban communities and youth of color in environmental stewardship. In 2001, Na’Taki co-founded the Atlanta Earth Tomorrow® Program, National Wildlife Federation’s multi-cultural, youth environmental education and leadership development program that engages urban youth in investigating causes of environmental challenges, helps them connect to nature, fosters their leadership of youth-led community action projects, promotes civic engagement, and nurtures leadership skills for building personal environmental stewardship. The Program has reached over 2,500 youth and was selected as a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps member organization. Na’Taki is also a Board Chairperson of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), a community-based organization that launched the Atlanta Children’s Forest Network (ACFN) in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pam Hess is the Director of Youth Engagement and leads the Outdoors Rx Program at the Boston-based Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). Outdoor Rx is a collaborative partnership with the healthcare community to provide free, dedicated resources for prescribing regular outdoor physical activity to youth, especially underserved individuals. AMC helps families “fill” these prescriptions by providing free, guided outdoor programming in their communities several times a week.

Dr. Stephen Lockhart is a Vice President and Regional Chief Medical Officer for Sutter Health in California. He has served on NatureBridge’s board of directors for 12 years, most recently as board chair. Under Stephen’s leadership, NatureBridge provides transformational environmental science programs in national parks to more than 30,000 children and teens each year. With NatureBridge, and as a board member of REI, NPS Second Century Commission and National Parks Conservation Association, Stephen advances his passion of connecting diverse young people to our national parks.

Watch the event live on Wednesday, March 18th from 9:00am to 12:00pm ET at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

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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 expanding opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the health and well-being 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 sixty national organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Association of State Park Directors, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, the Outdoor Foundation, 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.

Find out more on our website: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

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.