Tag Archives: Wilderness Inquiry

RELEASE: National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry join leadership of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Contact: Brenna Muller, 202-548-4581, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry join leadership of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

Washington, DC– The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced the addition of Grace Lee of National Park Trust and Meg Krueger of Wilderness Inquiry to OAK’s steering committee. The addition of National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry to OAK’s leadership team brings a fresh new perspective to the multi-sector partnership to connect children, youth and families with the outdoors. Both organizations bring invaluable experience from their programmatic work serving youth directly in the outdoors. National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry are joining OAK’s steering committee as two year term-members, from January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.

Grace Lee, Executive Director of National Park Trust (NPT) has worked with the NPT board and staff to expand NPT’s mission, which originally focused solely on the preservation of national parks through land acquisition, to include youth programs with the goal of cultivating future park stewards. As a result, since 2009, NPT’s Buddy Bison School Program and Kids to Parks Day have benefited more than 2 million children across the country.

“I’m delighted to join the OAK steering committee and look forward to working with OAK members to improve access for all children to their local, state and national parks,” said Grace Lee. “It is vital that we connect our youth to the great outdoors — they are our future caretakers of our public lands, waters and the environment.”

Meg Krueger, Wilderness Inquiry’s Education Program Manager, coordinates the Canoemobile program, a roving fleet of Voyageur canoes that travels to over 50 cities and serves 30,000 youth and community members each year.

“Wilderness Inquiry is honored to join the steering committee, and contribute to OAK’s inspiring work as a convening and advocating agency,” said Meg Krueger. “We look forward to complimenting this work with our strength in directly connecting the next generation of environmental stewards to our public lands and waterways.”  

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to welcome Grace Lee with National Park Trust and Meg Krueger with Wilderness Inquiry to the leadership of OAK,” said OAK’s founder and chair Jackie Ostfeld. “All children and youth should have regular, safe and varied opportunities to learn in and about the natural world. National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry are leaders in advancing programs to connect youth with the outdoors and have played critical roles in advancing OAK’s top priorities, including ensuring that fourth graders across America were able to take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park program. The addition of these tremendous leaders brings invaluable expertise to our growing alliance.”


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

Fourth Graders Float into OAK Week 2017

Parent and two kids canoeing along the Potomac River
Photo Credit: National Park Trust

All photo credits go to the National Park Trust.

Classrooms on water is a new way of learning for students across the nation. This new type of classroom allows students to learn about science, history, geography, and culture while floating along a river. This past week, Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile program traveled to the nation’s capital giving students in Washington D.C. the chance to experience a unique outdoor field trip on the Potomac River.

The National Park Service advocates for “Parks as Classrooms,” and it’s no different when talking about rivers and bodies of water. Canoemobile brings the classroom to the outdoors, engaging youth in environmental stewardship and recreational opportunities. Canoemobile is a collaboration of federal, state, and local partners.

OAK members joined Wilderness Inquiry and National Park Trust for a special Canoemobile event in Washington, D.C. with partners The North Face, National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to celebrate the Every Kid in a Park program and kick off OAK’s annual gathering.

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A highlight in the event was the distribution of Every Kid in a Park passes. This interagency program grants fourth graders nationwide free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year.  The goal of the Every Kid in a Park program is to inspire fourth graders everywhere to visit our federal lands and waters. The program works to ensure “every child” in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy their federal lands and waters by the time he or she is 11 years old. Having just been renewed for its third year this past September, the passes given to these students will be valid until August 31, 2018.

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Seventy fourth graders from D.C. public schools were able to take 24-foot Voyageur canoes along the Potomac river and learn about the watershed. For many of these students, although the Potomac river is just a few miles away, they have never actually been on the river to participate recreationally. With the proper instruction, the fourth graders were able to safely enjoy the Potomac River and learn about its environmental importance.

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Partnering organizations led activity stations for the students. The North Face led students through a relay race activity which taught students how to properly pack a backpack and build a tent for a camping trip. With a little competition and movement, students were able to stay engaged and learn new skills about recreating in the outdoors.

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As a wrap up to the morning of events, the fourth graders were asked to fill out postcards from OAK explaining why they love their Every Kid in a Park pass. This initiative is part of a larger national campaign OAK is organizing for any fourth grader in the nation. To download and mail in postcard from home, visit the OAK website.

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Even WTOP, a local FM radio station, stopped by to cover the event! Read their story.

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This youth event kicked off this year’s official OAK Week. Later in the afternoon, OAK formally welcomed all member organizations with a Welcome Reception & Member Awards. In the next two days, OAK continued with its Annual Member Meeting, Networking Happy Hour, Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, and finalized the week with a Congressional Awards Reception.


Learn more about the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and ways to joining this national strategic partnership which advocates for equitable and readily available opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.

Representative McCollum to join kids on the Potomac River



Friday, October 20, 2017

Contact: Grace Lee, 301-706-3407, grace@parktrust.org

Joe Spring, 612-676-9422,  joe@wildernessinquiry.org

Brenna Muller, 202-630-1864, brenna.muller@sierraclub.org

Representative McCollum to join kids on the Potomac River

DC 4th graders receive their Every Kid in a Park passes

[Washington, D.C.] – 70 fourth graders from DC public schools will be getting in Voyageur canoes on the Potomac River and learning about the watershed at a special event attended by members of Congress. The event will highlight the popular Every Kid in a Park program by introducing children to nature and providing them with one year free passes to all of America’s national public lands, waters, and shores. During the event, Representative Betty McCollum will help distribute Every Kid in a Park passes and join the kids in nature-based activities.

The Every Kid in a Park program is a federal program that provides fourth graders and their families free access to all federal lands for an entire year.

What: Every Kid in a Park Canoemobile Event with 70 Fourth Graders


  • Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-4);
  • 70 fourth graders from DC public schools;
  • Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile, National Park Trust and their official mascot Buddy Bison, The North Face, and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids;
  • National Park Service; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

When: Tuesday, October 24, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM; short speaking program and Every Kid in a Park pass distribution at 9:00 AM, followed by land and water-based activities for students. Members of the media encouraged to join students for activities following the formal speaking program.

Where: Thompson Boat Center, 2900 Virginia Ave NW, DC 20037

VISUALS: Photos with children on the water in handcrafted Voyageur canoes and participating in land-based activities in front of the beautiful Potomac River. Children receiving and wearing their official Every Kid in a Park passes. Buddy Bison (large mascot) will be on hand.


The Refraction Effect – NOLS Shines Light on Leaders of Color

OAK member guest blog by National Outdoor Leadership School

NOLs Alum hiking with kids by Brad Christensen
NOLs Alum hiking with kids by Brad Christensen

A typical National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course involves a team of instructors taking a group of students 14 and older into the backcountry and teaching them outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. We’ve been doing this for nearly 50 years, and can write reams about the ways in which young people have been transformed simply by spending an extended period of time with each other in nature learning how to get along and accomplish tangible goals.

But the stories we find to be the most rewarding are those where NOLS can shine a light on role models from communities underrepresented in the outdoors, who in turn refract that light on other outdoor role models like them. We hereby dub this “the refraction effect” (thanks to the hero of our story, Josh, for coining this term). And the greatest part of the refraction effect is that throughout the process, all of these role models continue  to shepherd young people into their ranks by taking them outside—sometimes in their own backyards—to experience the wonders of nature.

One such story is Josh Garubanda. Josh works for Wilderness Inquiry, also an OAK member. When Josh was four, his parents—both teachers—moved from a rural village in Kenya to the Twin Cities to make a better life for their family. Though Josh had always played outside, his love of outdoor recreation was sparked in high school, when he was asked to use his charisma and connections to lead an outdoor club for the primarily minority student body. With the help of a high school teacher who worked for Wilderness Inquiry, Josh acquired some essential outdoor skills and then passed them on to others in his club, including members of the Hmong, Latino, and black communities. It should come as no surprise that after school, he started guiding for Wilderness Inquiry.

Photo of Josh Garabunda by Julie Schweitzer
Photo of Josh Garubanda by Julie Schweitzer

Josh’s path intersected with NOLS only last year. Josh had always known about NOLS but it didn’t seem accessible to him until he learned about Expedition Denali.


Expedition Denali has been a monumental undertaking for NOLS. In the summer of 2013 the school brought together a group of inspiring role models who made history as the first team of African Americans to blaze a trail up America’s highest peak—Denali. To mark the 100th anniversary of the peak’s first ascent, Expedition Denali set out to change the “face” of the mountain, and mountaineering in general.

Though the summit was a goal, the ultimate objective was not just to make mountaineering history, but to build a legacy by paving a way for young people of color to get outside, get active, get healthy, become passionate about America’s wild places, and chase their own Denali-sized dreams. The team has engaged over 5,000 young people to connect with nature, and the inspiration continues with events this spring.

Enter Chad Dayton, Josh’s colleague at Wilderness Inquiry and a NOLS instructor. Chad told Josh about Expedition Denali, and in Josh’s words “I raised my eyebrows. An organization of this caliber getting behind an initiative to increase the visibility of African Americans was big. I wanted a closer look.” Catalyzed by this project, Josh took a NOLS Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator Course last summer to further his skills.

Expedition Denali by Hudson Henry Photography
Expedition Denali by Hudson Henry Photography

The story will come full circle this summer, when both Josh and the Expedition Denali team will be at the OAK Youth Event during Great Outdoors America Week on June 25. Josh is part of the Wilderness Inquiry crew that is taking hundreds of kids from the D.C. metro area on canoe trips on the Anacostia River. During that same event, NOLS Expedition Denali will be running an on-land station to teach kids how to set up storm proof tents along with other activity stations hosted by OAK members.

So back to the theory of refraction. Josh could be content as an outdoor enthusiast doing what he loves to do without regard to race—after all nature doesn’t care what color you are. But like the Expedition Denali mountaineers, Josh chose to be a visible role model. His reasons are best articulated in his own words:  “Underrepresented communities don’t see ourselves as being part of the outdoor narrative, and feel we are disconnected from that story. I want to showcase a personality whom other African Americans can connect with, and which challenges the perceptions of what it means to be black in America, and what it means to be black in the outdoors.  I want to remind people that the outdoors is black culture. Black people hike. Black people fish. And I’m only one actor within a movement of largely unsung heroes trying to use my influence to help shed some light on what we’re doing.”

Inspired by these words, NOLS will use this blog as an opportunity to refract the light that OAK is shedding on us. Look up these names: Phil Henderson, Audrey and Frank Peterman, Juan Martinez, Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, Rue Mapp, Jimmy Chin, Kai Lightner, Shelton Johnson. Those role models, like Josh and the Expedition Denali mountaineers, are few in a movement that is rewriting the narrative of people of color in nature. When you have the opportunity to influence someone, remember to take that opportunity to highlight other influencers. Together, we can inspire exponentially more young people to get outside.

Please visit expeditiondenali.nols.edu for more information about the project.