Hello, from the National Wildlife Federation’s Education Team

As we start to think about heading back to school, we’re excited to share stories about two programs that have kept us busy over the summer. Both programs emphasize the importance of outdoor activities and environmental education that centers on issues and experiences vital to the local community. 

Keep reading for:

  • A bird’s-eye view from a community event held as part of the Outdoor Adventurers program.
  • Highlights from the 21st Annual Earth Tomorrow Summer Institute-including a creek clean-up where local teens removed 1,500 pieces of trash as part of the Clean Earth Challenge.

Stay tuned for our quarterly newsletter in November! In the meantime, follow us on Twitter and Facebook @EcoSchoolsUSA and Instagram @nwfeducation.

— Kath Race
Senior Coordinator NWF’s Education & Engagement

Community Days for the Outdoor Adventurers Program

On a recent Saturday morning, excitement was in the air at the Midlothian Family YMCA near Richmond, Virginia. It was close to 10 a.m. when hundreds of families from the local community started streaming through the registration area. Bass Pro Cabela’s team had transformed the YMCA field into an outdoor recreation playground with several larger-than-life inflatable fish! Enthusiastic kids fanned out, eager to try their hand at catch and release fishing, archery, and even kayaking in the YMCA swimming pool. Throughout the day, they eagerly ran from one station to another, stopping briefly for lunch and a mid-day fishing demonstration.

  • Jillian Mitchell

For many, it was their first time catching a fish or experiencing the joy of gliding across the water in a kayak. In the spirit of community, several community members shared health, wellness, community, and safety information, including the local police and fire department. It was clear families and partners had a fantastic fun-filled afternoon. Similar events have occurred at YMCAs in cities like Memphis, TN, Springfield, MO, and Miami, FL. The community days are part of the Outdoor Adventurers program, a nationwide partnership between the National Wildlife Federation, local YMCAs, and Bass Pro Cabela’s.

Despite challenging circumstances these past few years, YMCA staff from Phoenix to Houston to Miami have enthusiastically embraced the program. They attended community learning sessions and incorporated nature-based educational activities into their youth programming. With the four pillars below serving as the program framework, implementation is guided by each YMCA’s specific needs and unique barriers to getting outdoors. In particular, the program centers on how youth in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities are impacted by inequities and works to support a relationship to nature that is culturally, emotionally, and socially affirming.

Using NWF’s Green Hour model (a commitment to spend one hour in nature each day), the program’s nature-based activities are integrated into YMCA’s existing youth programming. Youth are encouraged to explore and learn outdoors as they connect to nature and wildlife right where they live. The Outdoor Adventurers curriculum—developed by the National Wildlife Federation—covers topics from biodiversity and watersheds to healthy eating and pollinators. Woven into the curriculum training is the concept that we exist in nature no matter where we live. In practice, kids get outside to participate in meaningful, place-based activities and experience nature in their local community.

“Outdoor education is more than going hiking or running through the woods.  As we began to implement the Outdoor Adventurers curriculum, our campers and staff began to learn that nature can be right outside your front door (regardless of where you are).”

Jason Ching, Association Camp Operations Director | Operations Director- Chesterfield County | YMCA OF GREATER RICHMOND

The program has engaged almost 6,000 youth and their families in cities across the country. The education team at the National Wildlife Federation is excited to continue this journey with our YMCA and Bass Pro Cabela’s partners. Interested in utilizing the curriculum with the youth communities you serve? Look to Mizzen by Mott’s online or mobile app! First, create an account and in the navigation, go to CONTENT>FILTER>PUBLISHER and choose the National Wildlife Federation to get kids outside and connected to nature in their community today!

Earth Tomorrow x Clean Earth Challenge 

The Earth Tomorrow program, the National Wildlife Federation’s longest-standing environmental justice education program, recently finished its 21st Annual Summer Institute. The Summer Institute is one major component of the year-round Earth Tomorrow program, engaging rising 10th-grade to 12th-grade students in a week-long intensive residential experience of hands-on leadership development activities and fieldwork. They are immersed in recreational activities such as camping, hiking, and kayaking, and they get an opportunity to attend a college and career fair and participate in local service projects. 

Destiny Banks

Park With a Purpose

The institute kicked off with a creek clean-up in the English Avenue neighborhood of Atlanta. English Avenue has long suffered from flooding due to poor historical stormwater planning, resulting in an overflow of sewer systems. Through a community-driven process, members of the English Avenue community, in partnership with local organizations, created the community’s first-ever park and greenspace in 2015 to combat these problems. The Lindsay Street Park benefits the community with a large series of rain gardens that collect the stormwater runoff, and it’s a safe space for community members to gather. The park is also home to a playground, native plants, and the Proctor Creek Watershed

Before the students got started, Dr. Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks, the co-founder and Executive Director of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), shared that Proctor Creek was once a place the community could play in, but it now faces high bacteria levels, pollution, and illegal dumping from people outside the community. The creek pollutants impact local streams, and pollution flows directly into the Chattahoochee River, a main source of drinking water for Georgians. The hope is that one day the creek will be clean enough for people to play in it, just like the community did years ago. 

Clean Earth Challenge 

Inspired by Dr. Osborne-Jelks, the excited students put on protective boots and gloves and got to work! They were also eager to contribute to the Clean Earth Challenge with each piece of trash collected. The challenge is the result of the National Wildlife Federation and Johnson Outdoors partnership to inspire people to get outdoors and take simple conservation action to help clean up our planet. The goal is to collect one million pieces of trash and debris that litter the land, oceans, and waterways, documenting your progress with the Litterati app. In this one clean-up, students collected 1,500 pieces of trash! By taking the Clean Earth Challenge, anyone can help reduce pollution, clean up the planet, protect wildlife, and improve the health of their community. 

Follow these three easy steps to join the challenge!

  1. Sign up for the challenge
  2. Get out there in your community
  3. Measure your impact using the app

A campaign specifically for schools will run from September 6th – November 18th! Follow @EcoSchoolsUSA on social media for the latest, including the release of a K-12 Clean Earth Challenge Toolkit designed to help busy teachers plan and implement the Clean Earth Challenge at school. New learning activities will be released every two weeks during the campaign. Check back regularly for resource updates on the Clean Earth Challenge website starting later this month.

Spend a Green Hour this Summer

We need outdoor experiences more than ever! Each week, the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour Program provides new activities that can be completed in 15 or 30-minute segments. Keep in mind it is best to spend a Green Hour ™ to master outdoor skills and discover the wonders of wildlife. This month go for a moon walk, find fireflies, practice seeing at night, look for moths and look for more ways to enjoy memorable summer nights.


What We Are Reading

Upcoming Webinars

  • Stay tuned for an exciting shark education webinar opportunity for teachers and students!