After reading Rona’s blog – “Where is everyone” I set out to prove her wrong by asking friends and colleagues on social media to post images of happy kids outside with the hashtag #proveronawrong. The case has never been stronger: we need to get our families outside.
Nature is good for us. It helps with physical and mental well-being, is an important context for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and is really fun! Through experiences with the great outdoors we are creating the next generation of stewards – yes, our kids are next to address the impacts of climate change and continue the fight for clean and abundant water.
Scott Sampson, who in our house is the famous Dr. Scott from the TV show Dinosaur Train, writes in his new book Wild Child that we can and must respond to these problems and restore an emotional connection to the outdoors. One of the recommended ways to do this is by camping. By participating in National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Campout, you and your kids can get outdoors and connect with nature. Here are some family fun tips for the Great American Campout.Along with these trips, nature experiences can happen locally too. In the Mid-Atlantic, for example, we have loads of resources including, Chesapeake Family’s 100 days of summer which includes some cool outdoor experiences, and nearby in Delaware Beach Chair Scientist regularly has ideas about outdoor fun. National Park Service’s new Chesapeake Explorer App allows you to search for local hikes and proves there is a nexus between screen time and green time. We just got back from camping where we took some campies at Cunningham Falls, part of the Maryland state park system which extends from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.
But getting kids outside can be as simple as heading out back with plastic binoculars or a bug net. My son enjoys watching wildlife –bugs, butterflies, birds – a few feet from our house.
Recently, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources revealed to me that Maryland parks reached capacity 84 times in 2014 – there were too many people using them! And so far, NWF’s Great American Campout has 50,000 “pledges to camp”, including over 5,000 in Maryland.
Pledge to camp this summer! For each camper who pledges, $1 will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.
Thanks to everyone who answered my call on social media to #proveronawrong, the results are particularly satisfying with so many smiling kids enjoying the outdoors. This summer, help me prove Rona wrong, get kids outside and grow the next generation.
.@HilaryHF Enjoying Lake Accotink (@fairfaxparks) @AccotinkCreek1 #enviroed #proveronawrong pic.twitter.com/Hh9t1MFQEk
— BeachChairScientist (@bcsanswers) July 8, 2015
Help us #proveronawrong with your stories of getting outside! Use @ChesBayJournal (My daughter's first dip this wkd) pic.twitter.com/oYrF6lc1wK
— Whitney Pipkin (@WhitneyPipkin) June 23, 2015
That’s right. This spring, following behind the scenes advocacy by National Wildlife Federation and our partners at Natural Start Alliance, the Texas Workforce Commission approved precedent-setting regulations that provide financial incentives for childcare centers with natural outdoor play and learning settings.
First, a bit of background on the regulation of childcare centers. All states have minimum standards that childcare centers must meet in order to be open for business, and 35 states and municipalities also have Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS) to reward programs that exceed the minimum standards. States are also often purchasers of childcare services. So in this case, the Texas Workforce Commission administers the Texas QRIS system, called Texas Rising Star, and it reimburses childcare centers at a progressively higher rate if they achieve a 2, 3, or 4 star rating. Centers participating in the program serve over 100,000 children each day.
The policy improvements were made at the request of National Wildlife Federation, with technical guidance and support from Dr. Nilda Cosco of the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University.
The Munchkin Academy in Buxton, North Carolina before (above) and after (below) addition of trees and shrubs, raised garden beds, and a looping pathway.
NWF, working with North American Association for Environmental Education and the Natural Start Alliance, is about to release a report on early childhood education policy, and the regulations in Texas are the first to address the quality of the outdoor learning environment with any detail.
Now that we have some good policy in place, it should be easier to get other states to act, and in the meantime, 100,000 Texas children will benefit from daily opportunities to learn about nature.]]>
In 2011, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and 80 other supporting organizations collaborated with the US Department of Education to develop award criteria to recognize these champions at schools, districts, and Institutions of Higher Education that are making progress to green school grounds, buildings, and curriculum. The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions that are demonstrating progress in three Pillars: 1) reducing environmental impact and costs, including waste, water, energy use and alternative transportation; 2) improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and 3) providing effective sustainability education.
Earlier this year and under the leadership of Lori Braunstein, the Pennsylvania Green & Healthy Schools Partnership (PAGHSP) adopted NWF’s Eco-Schools 7-Step Framework and Pathways to Sustainability resources and curriculum to support Pennsylvania schools statewide. In May, Charles Patton Middle School, a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, was the first school in Pennsylvania to receive the Eco-Schools Green Flag Award– the program’s highest and most prestigious award.
On June 24th, the PAGHSP hosted an award ceremony in the Capitol Media Center in Harrisburg to congratulate Pennsylvania’s 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools– Northampton Community College and Charles Patton Middle School, as well as the Pennsylvania nominee, the School District of Jenkintown. The ceremony featured three cabinet secretaries: PA Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, and PDE Secretary Pedro Rivera. Pennsylvania legislators, Senator Art Haywood, Rep. Steve McCarter, Rep. Marsha Hahn, Rep. Jack Rader, Senator Mario Scavello, Rep. Chris Ross, Sen. Dominic Pileggi, and Senator Lisa Boscola recognized the awardees on the house and senate floors, presented citations to school teams, and participated in the award ceremony and photo opportunities.
With support from state agencies, collaborative partnerships, and exemplary leadership, Pennsylvania schools will continue to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of students and staff, and provide effective sustainability education. Look for the 2016 Green Ribbon Schools applications in late August and contact Lori@pagreenschools.org to become a Pennsylvania Eco-School.
To register as an Eco-School, click here.
To learn more about the work NWF is doing in the Mid-Atlantic region, click here.
These 5 additions to my backpack add less than 5 pounds, but endless possibilities for camping fun:
Weight: less than 1 oz each
Why: The great outdoors are filled with so many sights, sounds and species that it isn’t always easy to see everything around you. Fundanas, which are games and activities printed on cotton cloth, help turn natural exploration into a game and teach you something along the way. Plus they’re washable and you can always repurpose a bandana for headwear or a towel in a pinch!
Where Can You Find It: ShopNWF.org has two sets available for nature adventures: “Wild Bird and Bug Bingo” and “Track Quest and Nature Quest”
Weight: paperback: approximately 15 oz; hardback: 1-2 lbs
Why: Since hopefully you’re leaving your technology behind, you can replace your screen with a good ol’ fashioned book. Our friends at Scholastic have a Summer Reading Challenge booklist that are great summer reading companions, or you could even take the chance to get ahead on school reading projects without stress.
Where You Can Find It: Your local bookstore, library, or online shop of choice
Weight: 3.3 oz
Why: The possibilities are endless with a deck of cards. You can use them to play traditional games, make up your own, try out card tricks, or even use them to delegate chores at the campsite or hiking trail.
Where You Can Find It: Grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations (or maybe even your junk drawer)
Weight: Varies. A heavy-duty flashlight with those large batteries can weight upwards of 2.5 lb, but there are many options that are less than 1 lb (and some are even solar powered)
Why: In addition to being a handy safety tool to have when the sun goes down, who doesn’t love a good game of flashlight tag, or spooky stories? You can also spot wildlife on the move or track the constellations under the night sky.
Where You Can Find It: Your local hardware store, outdoor equipment store, or drugstore
Weight: 6-10 oz
Why: I like multipurpose items, and you can’t get much more multipurpose than tape. It’s great to have around in case something rips, springs a hole, or needs reinforcement, but it also makes quite the handy surface for a Nature Bracelet craft that can be a memento of your outdoor adventure. You could even wrap the tape around your waist instead of your wrist and create a belt!
Where You Can Find It: Grocery store, drugstore, around the house
Don’t forget to add your imagination; it’s the key ingredient to making memorable outdoors moments no matter where you go. Happy camping!
If you’re getting outdoors this summer, don’t forget to take the pledge to camp! When you do, $1 for each camper will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.]]>
With this support, they led tree-focused crafts, like making a magic wand from downed twigs and branches, and handed out trees to families interested in improving the wildlife habitat at home.Over 300 people attended the event, and over 50 families adopted trees to plant at home, choosing from native Montana species including Ponderosa pine, white pine, bur oak, and white oak. Many families were interested in adopting an oak tree because they loved the idea of having a beautiful deciduous tree in their backyard, and they were also enticed by the thought of acorns! Other families were so excited to get a pine tree whose branches would one day shelter local birds and pollinators.
By the time the day was over, countless children were running around, completely unconnected from digital devices, enjoying playing in the nature that surrounded them.
Later that month, the Clark Fork School held their kindergarten graduation ceremony. To celebrate the students’ progress, each took home their very own tree to plant and care for—cementing the knowledge that trees truly are gifts, for both people and wildlife.
Help NWF affiliates, communities, and wildlife continue receiving free native tree seedlings by sponsoring a tree or purchasing holiday cards from NWF’s catalog!]]>
Our friends at Scholastic’s Parent & Child magazine have compiled some tips for first-time camping trips with young children that help you plan your trip, but once you’ve gotten to your site, make sure you’ve got plenty of things to do to make the most out of your time outdoors.
Here are a few tips for a family-friendly camping adventure:
The buzzing and chirping of the natural world can be drowned out by those coming from our smartphones and tablets. Set the electronics to silent and focus on all of the great things around you. But don’t worry about bringing your phone or camera out to snap a picture of some local wildlife to enter into the National Wildlife® Photo Contest or your own #campie (camping + selfie = campie) and share it with NWF on social media.
Open your eyes and ears to the sights around you. There are signs of the season popping up everywhere, and Ranger Rick’s Nature Notebook provides great tips to help train your senses to discover the world around you. The full moon frolic could be particularly fun with the area near your campsite.
Sharing stories in front of a campfire is a cornerstone of camping for a good reason. Inspiration from the outdoors can put your creativity on high gear and open your imagination to new and wonderful possibilities. Encourage your children to tell their own stories, and give them a little help with a story starter, like this one from the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.
Getting away from the normal ins and outs of our routine gives us a chance to take a moment and catch up with family and friends. One of my family’s favorite traditions when we’re all together is to let our competitive sides loose with endless hands of card games or checkers. We even have a giant roll-up checkers game that comes along for picnics and other trips, which you can also find on ShopNWF.org.
Whatever the way you do it, take your time outdoors to enjoy the people you’re spending it with.
When you pledge to camp this summer, $1 for each camper will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.]]>
All of these environmental issues were addressed by students ages 13-21 as part of National Wildlife Federation’s Young Reporters for the Environment Program (YRE). Students that participated in the competition investigated a local environmental problem or issue, and proposed solutions. They documented their work, through writing, photography or video and reported on it to a variety of local audiences.
Submissions were awarded by a prestigious group of national and international jurists that volunteered their expertise and time to evaluate and provide comments to all entries that met the program requirements.
All 1st place winning entries were submitted to the International YRE competition where participants competed against others from 25 different countries. This year, YRE-USA is proud to have two winners in the international competition!
The winning entries from the 2014-2015 NWF YRE-USA annual competition are:
Writing Category (AGES 11-14)1st Place: “Polk County: Strangled” by Madeline McDonough – Polk County Middle School, NC
Video category (AGES 15-18)
2nd Place: “Tap’s Where It’s At!” by Mauricio Bustamante, Meztli Cardoso, and Shantal Teran, Queens Vocational and Technical High School, Long Island City, NY
View all 2015 International YRE winners.
MIDDLE SCHOOL (AGES 13-15)
1st Prize: “Polk County: Strangled” – Madeline McDonough – Polk County Middle School, Mill Spring, NC
2nd Prize: “Montgomery County Bans Styrofoam Products” – Julia Rich, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
3rd Prize: “Obesity in Tennessee” – Danielle Less, Donelson Christian Academy, Hermitage, TN
1st Prize: “Christopher Meets John” – Rachel Wolf – Duval Charter High School, Jacksonville, FL (see photo)
2nd Prize: “Honeybees Aren’t the Only Bees We are Needing” – Kayta Willhoit, Dunsmuir High School, Dunsmuir, CA
3rd Prize: “Be Good to the Earth” – Zoe Corbine, Northern Waters Environmental School, Hayward, WI
1st Prize: “G-M-Oh My Goodness” – Juniper Walter-Eger and Sadie Allen, Polk County Middle School, Mill Spring, NC2nd Prize: “Kudzu Conquers” – Izzy Jackson and Reese Alley, Polk County Middle School, Mill Spring, NC
3rd Prize: “Touring through the Ecosystem” – Juliana Robbins and Morgan Stott, Polk County Middle School, Mill Spring, NC
HIGH SCHOOL (AGES 16-18)
1st Prize: “Maryland’s Two Treasures: Chickens and the Chesapeake” – Norma Panigot, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
2nd Prize: “A Solution to Bus Pollution” – Jason Kim, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
3rd Prize: “What the Frack?” – Chrissy Kingsley, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
1st Prize: “Solar Panels” – Alyssa Clark, Dunsmuir High School, Dunsmuir, CA
2nd Prize: “Vermicomposting: Worm Poop” – LeAnn Rhoades, Dunsmuir, CA
3rd Prize: “We Turned Our Backs on Nature” – Northview High School, Covina, CA
1st Prize: “Tap’s Where It’s At!” – Mauricio Bustamante, Meztli Cardoso, and Shantal Teran, Queens Vocational and Technical High School, Long Island City, NY
2nd Prize: “Water Conservation” – Alex Moran, Northview High School, Covina, CA
3rd Prize Tie: “The Montgomery County City Agricultural Reserve” – Alexander Tran, Nic Heemskerk, Anna Murgia, Varun Pemmaraju, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
3rd Prize Tie: “A Flowing Legacy: Montgomery County-Last Best Creek” – Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) is an international program that engages youth in environmental journalism in 25 countries. In the United States, YRE is hosted in the United States by the National Wildlife Federation and is open to students between the ages of 13 and 21; the program is coordinated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) worldwide. For more information, please go to: www.yre-usa.org.]]>
At Jamaica Bay, we had our own little polygon plot — actually two — where we planted evening primrose and other native plants. Michelle Luebke, an education specialist at Gateway who had cleared the area from the invasive plants that were growing there, showed us the layout and set us to work. Grown-ups and children split up into two groups. We worked cooperatively – always a nice lesson to learn in kindergarten! Parents dug holes. Little hands planted seedlings. We were all very careful about where we stepped.The restorative benefits of being outside are well known, but it is also true that the outdoors can be a great classroom. After planting, NPS Ranger Dan Meharg seized on my kindergarteners’ excess energy and took them on a hike through the Refuge. He pointed out all kinds of plants, including milkweed, poison ivy and beach plum, as well as birds such as osprey, tree swallows and a red-winged blackbird.
Dan helped the children hone their observation skills as he pointed out similarities and differences among different plant and animal species. Will they remember how to identify these species by the time they get to first grade? Maybe or maybe not. But Dan emphasized the greater lesson of looking closely, a skill my students will need for the rest of their lives.Our group also got a mini-history and politics lesson as we stood before a former freshwater pond while Dan described the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused to Jamaica Bay. The destructive hurricane breached a sand barrier and flooded the pond with salt water. Government officials are still trying to figure out whether it should be restored. Abstract concepts for little people and big people alike are much more meaningful when witnessed first-hand. We did not walk away with answers, but we understood. To be honest, there is another lingering lesson that I hope my little kindergarteners will carry with them throughout their lives: the lesson that we can all make a difference in our corner of the earth. The issues our world is facing can be quite discouraging at times. There is so much that is out of our control – conflict, wars, disease, greedy corporations. However, no matter how small we are, we can do some good where we are, even if it is for creatures smaller than us, like butterflies and bumble bees. We can make our little polygon plot a better place to be.
Join NWF and become involved with Eco-Schools USA! Learn about educational green programs and initiatives.
About the Author: Mina Campanie is in her fourth year of teaching as a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 197, The Kings Highway Academy in Brooklyn, NY. She sees many similarities between caring for her seedlings at home and nurturing the kindergarteners at school. This is her second guest blog for National Wildlife Federation. Read her first blog, Kindergarteners Help Grow a Wild Brooklyn.
It doesn’t get more heartwarming than this. Students at PS 179 in Brooklyn are learning about the life cycle of monarch butterflies and helping this declining species at the same time. The school is a participant in National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program.
Through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers, Eco-Schools USA combines effective “green” management of the school grounds, the facilities and the curriculum; truly providing students with a unique, research and application based learning experience. The program strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening the curriculum and enhance science and academic achievement. Additionally, it works to foster a greater sense of environmental stewardship among youth.
The school was even featured on the Today Show!
Read more about a similar project at PS 197 to help monarchs and to connect students to nature, and how your children’s school can become an Eco-School and create a Schoolyard Habitat.]]>
As a biology teacher and my school’s Sustainability Coordinator, I work with my student-led Green Team and staff to increase awareness and participation in recycling, composting, energy conservation, and gardening in our school. For Earth Day, April 22, 2015, I planned the first JFK Campus-wide Earth Day event our school, one of the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools in New York City.
Our school’s Sustainability Coordinators and Green Teams ushered in the Spring inauguration of our newly promoted food scrap drop-off site, known as the JFK Campus Organics Collection, and conducted activities all day in our campus garden, the “Enchanted Garden”.Students and staff were invited to bring in their fruit and vegetable scraps and waste for a weekly weigh-in, coordinated with The Bronx Botanical Garden’s NYC Compost Project. Teachers were given buckets and ECOBags, donated by ECOSAFE ZeroWaste, to collect the compost material. The teachers then received literature and an explanation of what to bring every Wednesday morning so that the waste in the buckets and bags could be weighed by Kathy Vazquez of the NYC Bronx Garden Compost Project. Later in the day, we scheduled events for students and staff to improve sustainability on campus:
See more photos from the day. We had hundreds of teachers, students, and special guests attend including Dr. Sharon Jaye, Director of the NYC Department Of Education’s Sustainability Initiative; Ira Charles Levenberg, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality; Master Composter Jodie Colon; William Doyle, our school’s new principal; and my beautiful wife, Premdai Steiner.“We’re so encouraged by the efforts of teachers like Danny Steiner, whose passion for sustainability inspires students and staff to become engaged in improving the environment at school and beyond, after Earth Day has come and gone,” says Emily Fano, Senior Manager of NYC Eco-Schools. “It’s a cliché to say this but it really is true: for teachers like Danny and his students, and Sustainability Coordinators and students at many of our 300 Eco-Schools across NYC, Earth Day truly is every day.”
Join NWF and become involved with Eco-Schools USA! Learn about educational green programs and initiatives.
About the Author: Danny Steiner is a Sustainability Coordinator and Environmental Science Teacher at Bronx Theater High School. He is an environmental activist and cares deeply about sustainability.