Connecting Children to Nature

Jun 10, 2014

Connecting Children to Nature and Planting Knowledge

Shared Garden at Olive Street/Thomas Jefferson ES
Shared Garden at Olive Street/Thomas Jefferson ES

Planting knowledge brings environmental awareness to schools and communities.

Inside the Outdoors along with more than 200 students and community members planted butterfly and vegetable gadrens in the shared field between Olive Street and Jefferson Elementary Schools in Anaheim.  Students from both schools will come together and share the responsibility of nurturing these gardens for years to come.  In addition, a butterfly garden and rebeautification projects were inplemented in the community play area at Arbors at Vintage Crossings.  Projects like these not only connect children to nature, they plant knowledge in entire communities by touching the lives of thousands of families.  Both projects worked to raise awareness of environmental issues such as pollution, graffiti and trash, as well as encouraging the planning of community events. 

The goal of these projects are to inspire youth to become more involved in the community and improve their neighborhoods.  "Helping care for this garden will help us improve our responsibility and will set an example to nurture our world,” said Carol C., a sixth-grader from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.  Manny Kiesser, the Inside the Outdoors Foundation board president and a Disneyland Resort cast member, is confident that the program will encourage kids to clean up their environment and believe that “they have a powerful voice to create positive change.”

Inside the Outdoors also used funds to send Traveling Scientist programs to Olive Street Elementary and Thomas Jefferson Elementary to work with students, teaching them lessons about how to make the environment a better place. 

Both schools are interested in expanding the garden to double it's size.  Inside the Outdoors will keep the community engaged by planning additional events and improvement projects for all ages.

Student Artwork
Student Artwork
Creating a sense of community
Creating a sense of community
Community created mural
Community created mural
Butterfly garden
Butterfly garden


Mar 19, 2014

Connecting to Nature through ITO Experiences

MLK Day of Service with Corona Del Mar HS Students
MLK Day of Service with Corona Del Mar HS Students

Community Programs

Environmental science came to life for students who helped with a restoration project as part of the Martin Luther King Day of Service, January 19, 2014.

More than 40 students from Corona del Mar High’s Advanced Placement environmental science class spent three hours clearing invasive plants from the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and replanted native seedlings to restore the wetland habitat.

Inside the Outdoors, spearheaded the service project, giving students the opportunity to connect information from the classroom and textbooks to the world around them. It also builds the foundation for students to pursue careers in science that they might not otherwise have considered.

In addition to the Corona del Mar students, volunteers from La Quinta High School in Westminster, Cox Communication, PIMCO, Starbucks, the Disneyland Resort and OneOC dedicated more than 300 hours to the restoration project.


TS Programs

Since September 2013, more than 11,430 students have participated in Traveling Scientist programs through sponsorships.

These programs provide a hands-on opportunity for students in preschool – sixth grade to develop an awareness and appreciation of the sciences through the exploration of the animal kingdom and physical science concepts. In addition, the program fosters a commitment to the protection and understanding of the environment and community. The programs are aligned with the California Science Content Standards and the California Science Framework to ensure that teachers’ curricular needs are met.

Some of our exceptional programs include:

Amazing Animals - Learn about the unique characteristics and behaviors of mammals, reptiles, birds, and other species of the animal kingdom with a TS and live animals.

Scales or Slime - Students compare and contrast reptiles and amphibians to discover the characteristics of each class of animals.

Eight Legs or Six? - Through lab stations, students discover the important role some of these animals have on Earth as decomposers.

Drip Drop - Students review the water cycle as they experiment with an aquifer, learn how pollution enters the watershed, and develop ways to conserve water in their neighborhoods.

What's the Matter? - Students use the scientific method to explore the world of chemistry, using the periodic table, observation, and experimentation.


Outdoor Science School (OSS)

Outdoor Science School, in operation since 1974, offers three, four and five day programs for fifth and sixth grade students at sites in the San Bernardino Mountains. The overnight experience also provides an ideal atmosphere for the development of social skills and self-esteem. Both students and teachers leave Outdoor Science School knowing more about the natural world and themselves.

As well as life changing hands-on environmental science experiences, students gain valuable life skills. Michael from Brookhaven School in PYLUSD was heard saying that he learned he could do things that he never thought he could do, as well as how to set the table properly after participating in activities at Outdoor Science School. Michael’s parents noted, “Michael has become more independent and responsible since returning from his Outdoor Science School experience.” In a post-assessment survey another student answered the following question, What did you learn about yourself? "Science is one of my favorite things.

The science of creating a shelter - OSS
The science of creating a shelter - OSS


Dec 19, 2013

Youth Stewardship Council

Youth Stewardship Council
Youth Stewardship Council

In 2012, inspired by the Friends for Change Youth Summit at Disney World, Inside the Outdoors launched the Youth Stewardship Council.  Middle and high school students from communities that reflect the diversity of Southern California are coming together to create change in their communities.  They've planted school gardens, started recycling programs, taught younger students about the importance of conservation, cleaned up wetlands and beaches, and that's just the start of things!  In addition to donating over 2,000 volunteer hours to make their communities a better place, these young people are mentoring each other and creating a standard for Service-Learning volunteer projects. They've also heard from conservation, science, and environmental education experts. 

What's next?  The Youth Stewardship Council was funded by the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (they wrote a grant and competed nationally for funding) and Southern California Edison to expand the council to reach afterschool programs.  They also plan to launch a website to share videos, photos, and stories about their journey. 

Want to get inspired?  Hang out with a few of the young people who are part of Inside the Outdoors Foundation's Youth Stewardship Council.  They're not the leaders of tomorrow - they are the leaders of today. 


Oct 2, 2013

Taking the Outdoors to the City

Students participate in Anaheim community project
Students participate in Anaheim community project

Inside the Outdoors' programs are more than just bringing students to the outdoors. Sometimes, letting those students experience nature and learn valuable environmental science lessons means coming to them.

That's exactly the thought behind our Traveling Scientist program, which brings an experienced naturalist directly to campuses for small, in-classroom sessions.

This fall, Inside the Outdoors will be traveling to neighborhoods of Anaheim that have been plagued by gang violence, poverty and, in some cases, a feeling of hopelessness.

Juan, a fifth-grader on Anna Drive, lives just a few yards from where a suspected gang member ran from police and was fatally shot last summer. Juan's neighborhood is riddled with graffiti and trash that piles up along fences and in gutters. His parents, immigrants from Mexico who came to Anaheim for a better life, are afraid to let him play outside. So Juan stays indoors, rarely traveling even to a city park. He's never been to the mountains that he can clearly see in the distance outside his apartment window.

He's exactly the kind of student Inside the Outdoors plans to reach with a message of hope and empowerment. A Traveling Scientist from the program will come directly into schools near Juan's neighborhood to develop an increased awareness about environmental issues such as pollution, trash and graffiti.

More than 200 K-6th grade students will work with mentors to identify and analyze a community problem, then plan a community event such as trash cleanup and/or graffiti removal for some 500 community members. Several middle-school and high-school students will work with those younger students to help plan and serve as mentors in the community.

The goal: To educated students and make them aware that they have a strong collective voice and the power to make positive change in their own communities. In short, to give hope.

This is all possible only with the generous support of donors like you. For more information, please visit us at


Jul 3, 2013

Summer Science ... and Fun!

Inside the Outdoors Summer Day Camp 2013
Inside the Outdoors Summer Day Camp 2013

Summer is definitely heating up at Inside the Outdoors. And just because kids are out of school doesn’t mean the learning has stopped.

Our Summer Day Camp is getting kids outdoors to stay active – physically and mentally. Inside the Outdoors’ camps are designed for fun and education, to prevent the traditional “summer slide” in learning, keeping kids engaged through hands-on fun in nature’s classroom.

For some of the kids, it’s their first time away from Mom and Dad and a chance to meet new friends. At the same time, sessions focus on a variety of hands-on activities students can enjoy while building science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Camp themes include:

  • Survival of the Kiddest: Students become survival experts, building shelters, constructing a compass, going fishing and learning trail safety and crucial skills to stay safe.
  • “AMAZE”ing Scientists!: Junior Scientists explore archeology, marine biology, zoology and more while they meet live animals, do experiments and crafts.
  • Eco-Avengers: Ready, set, save the planet! Campers become planet protectors, designing solar-powered boats, discovering worm power and learning how to help endangered animals.

Because more than 60 percent of students who attend an Inside the Outdoors program come from disadvantaged neighborhoods, generous donations help send more kids to our programs – all year long.

Thank you for checking out more about what we do at


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Project Leader

Lori Kiesser

Program Development Manager
Costa Mesa, California United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Connecting Children to Nature