I opened the paper on Sunday and saw it, the end of summer. The circulars were all jam packed cover-to-cover with back-to-school merchandise, sales and reminders. In one glance I could see the slower paced days, less hectic schedules and lighter traffic around town all ending. In an instant, I felt the dreaded fall rush of having to hurry to get kids to school, shuttle to after school activities, home for dinner, homework, bed, repeat.
The summer is always a great time to connect kids to nature. Many of you worked summer-long to conduct nature camps, environmental learning programs, backyard family campouts and more to help foster interest in nature and stewardship among the younger generation. But, we should not dismiss fall as a time to shelve those programs; with its cooling temperatures and autumn beauty fall is a prime opportunity to get kids into the great outdoors.
Back to school season may be here but don't shelve those nature programs - take advantage of the fall to continue to connect kids to the outdoors
As you know, NRPA believes one of the greatest areas of impact parks and recreation have is in conservation, especially imparting the love of nature among the younger generation. That is why we are continuing to encourage agencies to join us and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in the 10 Million Kids Outdoors campaign to get more kids connected to nature. Currently 600 agencies are participating and if your agency is not, we encourage you to join in the program. Resources, webinars and more are available to help you connect kids to nature in your community.
Now for some of us around the country schools are starting this week (YIKES!) or even next week and that means the fall rush is poised to be in full swing with other areas of the country soon to follow. However, there are ways to work around the hectic schedules for the kids and parents in your community so you can continue to connect kids to nature.
Here are some great ideas from our friends at NWF to help you continue connecting more kids to nature in your community.
- Tree planting grants: The National Wildlife Federation is accepting applications for tree planting events for fall 2013. Park and recreation agencies and community groups can apply to receive free native tree seedlings and activity kits that support a group planting project. Planting trees is a great way to get kids outside – and the activities are designed to keep them engaged all year. Apply today!
- Gardens as teaching tools: Do you have gardens or space for gardening at your parks? Work with local schools or after-school groups to have students create outdoor learning gardens which will teach them about nature, wildlife and help them take the next steps to stewardship. NWF has a complete step-by-step guide to help volunteers work with students on creating gardens and learning classrooms. Learn more and download the guide.
- Spread the word to parents: When parents sign their children up for your fall programs and activities, consider this an opportunity to encourage them to get their children outside more often. NWF has a wealth of ideas, resources and activities that you can include in your newsletters or communications with parents for free. Check out the monthly parent newsletter and activity database for sample content.
- Hike and Seek events: NWF hosts Hike and Seek events each year, encouraging families to get out on short hikes. These hikes include fun stop-and-study stations that explore local flora and fauna. Families also seek for items (visually) through a park recommended list designed for different age groups. This day of fun is a great way to connect first time hikers and explorers through an easy-to-do activity. Learn more about Hike and Seek events.
What are some ways your agency is engaging children and parents in nature and the outdoors all year long? Do you find a certain time of year more conducive for connecting kids to nature? What types of fall activities do you offer to generate interest in nature and conservation?
Editor’s Note: Interested in participating in the 10 Million Kids Outdoors program? Get more information and sign up today! Join the conversation on social media and tell us what you think about connecting kids to nature and the role of local parks and recreation using the hashtag #10MKO on Facebook and Twitter.