Connecting Children to Nature

by Inside the Outdoors Foundation
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Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Connecting Children to Nature
Upper Newport Bay Becomes a Classroom
Upper Newport Bay Becomes a Classroom

Can you remember a time when you rushed to a window to see a rainbow?  How about walking outside after a spring rain shower just so you can smell the newness in the air?  These experiences generate a sense of “awe” that connects you to a world bigger than yourself.  What if engaging experiences in nature could be connected to classroom lessons? Could that same sense of “awe” be replicated as students are learning?

We believe the answer is yes.  Inside the Outdoors’ unique approach creates a bridge between in-class learning and experiences in nature.   We call this the “in-between” space, meaning that we are situated in-between traditional outdoor learning experiences and traditional K-12 classroom experiences. 

ITO’s “In-Between” includes: 

  • Engagement through Exploration: ITO programs are designed to promote student engagement through exploration, either through direct hands-on activities or comparable virtual ones as appropriate.  Students conduct hands-on experiments to collect data that helps them understand phenomena and solve problems. This encourages students to provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions to real world problems.  This active student engagement through exploration further promotes student curiosity, awe, enthusiasm, and excitement of the natural world.
  • Standards-Driven, Phenomena-Centered: Careful selection of instructionally valuable, locally-relevant, and interesting phenomena help expose students to new experiences and generate a sense of awe and excitement for students.  ITO programs nurture a natural curiosity. For science-centered programs, the Performance Expectations, in conjunction with individual dimensions and Engineering as appropriate, are the primary drivers of the program. The dimensions include the Science and Engineering Practices, the Crosscutting Concepts, and the Disciplinary Core Ideas at the appropriate grade level for the program. In addition, student-centered, phenomena based sense-making are valued as features of the program.  For history-social science programs, the current California standards and the History-Social Science framework should be the main drivers of programs.  All programs include purposeful connections to the Environmental Principles & Concepts, where appropriate and in connection with a standard, in order to develop environmental literacy.  
  • Promoting Sensemaking: ITO programs are designed to engage students in age-appropriate sensemaking strategies including observing, wondering, asking questions, discussing, listening, making connections, explaining their thinking, or agreeing/disagreeing with one another.  These strategies, structures, and activities are specifically designed to support students in the process of constructing and revising the understanding of the program’s relevant phenomena and standards.  Staff listen to students and provide meaningful feedback to student ideas and discussions.
  • Safety: ITO programs provide students with a cognitively, emotionally, socially, and physically safe place to learn.  When students feel safe, they are able to ask questions, participate in activities, and try new things without being apprehensive.
  • Expert Facilitation: ITO programs are facilitated by expert practitioners who use facilitator moves such as encouraging students, providing guidance, and moving around the physical or virtual space in order to use proximity appropriately.  Additionally, staff promote both collective and independent thinking through intentional utilization of grouping strategies based on the size of the group, group make-up, etc.

As we shared in previous reports 2020 & 2021 have been especially challenging for us, too. In the midst of a pandemic and the loss of our environmental education site to a wildfire, we remain focused on strengthening our position in the “in-between” space as it leads to stronger student outcomes. We hope that you’ll join us in our work to connect students to nature. 

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ITO Field Trip - Zero Waste Lunch
ITO Field Trip - Zero Waste Lunch

Inside the Outdoors extends Earth Day into May with #ProjectZeroWasteLunch challenge

Inside the Outdoors (ITO) has been a leader in hands-on science and social science programs and a partner in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education since 1974. The mission of Inside the Outdoors is to empower students, teachers, parents and the community to explore natural areas and expand their knowledge, understanding and stewardship of the environment. Inside the Outdoors Foundation was established in 1994 to provide financial, educational, and advisory support to the Inside the Outdoors science study programs. 

While every day is Earth Day for Inside the Outdoors environmental science programs, April 22 is set aside each year as a reminder to take better care of our planet. But this year, Inside the Outdoors is partnering up with OC Waste & Recycling to launch a special zero waste challenge during the month of May.

Designated #ProjectZeroWasteLunch, the challenge is calling on elementary, middle and high school students to showcase how they can reduce waste during lunch time by using one or all of the ‘5 R’s — Refuse, Reuse, Rot, Repurpose, Recycle.

How to participate:

During the week of May 10-14, Inside the Outdoors staff will post short, educational videos with easy tips to reduce waste on the ITO Instagram page and YouTube channel. Students can watch these videos for inspiration and then submit their own photos, art or videos depicting how they are reducing their own lunch waste.

Submissions will be accepted via the following ways:

  1. Follow @insidetheoutdoors on Instagram, upload photos and use the hashtag #ProjectZeroWasteLunch
  2. Fill out a short survey at: https://ocde.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8BvE7tORRcZgq0e
  3. Email photos or art to: insidetheoutdoors@ocde.us

The challenge is open to all K-12 students in Orange County, CA and participation can take place at home or on campus.

“Whether at home, hybrid or in-person, students can show us how they are reducing waste at lunch by using one or even all of the 5 R’s with some inspiration from us. Change comes through practice, so we thought we’d have some fun with a challenge that lasts beyond Earth Day.”

  • Yarib Dheming, Outreach Manager, Inside the Outdoors.

Project Zero Waste is an award-winning partnership between OC Waste & Recycling and Inside the Outdoors that began in 2009 to engage students in service-learning about solid waste. More recently, the focus has shifted to exploring waste diversion strategies to reduce items, from food waste to mattresses, ending up in our local landfills.

Facebook @itofoundation

Twitter @itofoundation

Instagram @insidetheoutdoors and #insidetheoutdoors

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/ITOFoundation

ITO Field Trip - Zero Waste Lunch
ITO Field Trip - Zero Waste Lunch
Anaheim HS students sharing the 5 R's
Anaheim HS students sharing the 5 R's
Anaheim HS students sharing the 5 R's
Anaheim HS students sharing the 5 R's
Golden View Elementary students
Golden View Elementary students
Golden View Elementary students
Golden View Elementary students
Mission Viejo HS studnet recycling program
Mission Viejo HS studnet recycling program
Mission Viejo HS studnet recycling program
Mission Viejo HS studnet recycling program
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Rancho Sonado Pond (before fire)
Rancho Sonado Pond (before fire)

Nestled against the Santa Ana Mountains, Rancho Soñado served as the headquarters of Inside the Outdoors environmental education programs and the Foundation for nearly 15 years.  Since 2006, more than 100,000 students have visited the site.

On December 3, 2020, the picturesque landscape of Rancho Soñado was overtaken by the wind-driven Bond Fire that carved a destructive path through Silverado Canyon in California.  No staff members were injured, although two of the three structures on the grounds were lost to the fast-moving wildfire, including the on-site residence occupied by the program’s Operations Manager and her family, who had to evacuate suddenly in the middle of the night.  The Bond Fire arrived with a speed and intensity that made it impossible for the evacuation team to approach.  Sadly, all but four of the Animal Ambassadors for the program, housed on the property, did not survive the blaze.

“We can rebuild the buildings and nature will recover, but we will never get over losing Animal Ambassadors of our ITO family to the Bond Fire.  While I still don’t have the words to describe the loss, what I can describe is how the resilient and amazing team came together to focus on the students we serve. We resumed programs on December 7 because the ITO staff expressed that students have lost so much this year and they just cannot lose anything else.”

-           Lori Kiesser, ITO Coordinator, Partnerships and Education

 

Nurturing a natural curiosity

Covering approximately 110 acres in the Santa Ana Mountains, Rancho Soñado has hosted thousands of field trips and Summer Day Camp kids, giving students of all backgrounds a chance to explore unspoiled local ecosystems and engage in hands-on learning.

The Rancho Soñado property was granted to the Orange County Board of Education in 2003 through the Trust for Public Land, with the intent that the site be preserved and used for outdoor education. The Inside the Outdoors program was established in 1974 to empower students, teachers, parents and the community to explore natural areas and expand their knowledge, understanding, and stewardship of the environment, while Inside the Outdoors Foundation, established in 1994, provides financial, educational and advisory support.

Rancho Soñado became ITO’s official home in December 2006, and over the years it has bused in more than 100,000 student visitors to interact with its living laboratory. Animals housed at the site have included snakes, turtles, lizards, parrots, doves, a kestrel, an owl, rats, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rabbits and insects.

Four Animal Ambassadors that were inside a field office were safely recovered after the fire, including two young gopher snakes and two toads.

There is currently no timeline for rebuilding structures or rehabbing the site, but the intention is to rebuild Rancho Soñado to its glory while supporting student programs virtually and at other sites throughout the county in the meantime.

 

Update

As we start the new year, we have a lot to be thankful for. We knew we always had your support, but with this tragedy our community came together to show kindness and generosity for the Inside the Outdoors program and our caretaker’s family.

Here are a few illustrations:

• Our caretaker’s twin girls got special attention for their birthday less than a week after the fire when School Resource Officer Siegel nominated them to receive assistance from the Cops Care program.

• Community partners came to the rescue by donating funds and offering volunteer help.

• Animal lovers and zookeepers from our community reached out in response to the loss of our program animals and offered to help us continue our programs during this school year.

 • Families touched by our programs donated -- and even their children contributed their own money to our rebuilding.

• Staff, board members, former staff, teachers, principals, administrators, and local businesses have all sent heartfelt messages and donated. Those connected now and in the past! We are humbled and we thank you. It’s not lost on us that these donations are coming in during difficult times for everyone.

We want you to know that:

• Our Operations Manager and property caretaker and her family settled into a new home just in time for the holidays.

• We’re proud to say that students are still being served through Virtual Field Trips and Traveling Scientist programs.

Nature's Classroom (before fire)
Nature's Classroom (before fire)
Trails of Rancho Sonado (before fire)
Trails of Rancho Sonado (before fire)
Wetland Assessment Station (before fire)
Wetland Assessment Station (before fire)
Regrowth - nature's recovery (post fire)
Regrowth - nature's recovery (post fire)
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Garden Rebuild
Garden Rebuild
The Ocean View School District hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late 2019 at Golden View Environmental Science School for the re-opening of its refurbished farm, which sits on a 2.5-acre site in Huntington Beach.
 
The event featured tours of the new and improved Golden View Farm, which provides students with multiple, hands-on learning opportunities. District officials say caring for living animals helps children understand life cycles, the reciprocity between animals and humans, and the importance of making responsible choices.
 
Inside the Outdoors Foundation worked with the school to provide funding and volunteers. including students, families, school administrators and Boeing employees, to rebuild the garden by adding new raised beds and native plants.  Tending the garden allows students to plant, harvest and cook nutritious food using natural ingredients. Inside the Outdoors also offered Traveling Scientist programs on the 5 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Repurpose, and Recycle, where students learn how to be stewards of the environment.
 
Important upgrades made to the farm include new animal enclosures for sheep and goats, an outdoor exercise area for animals, hardscaping and new fencing.
 
“We are so proud of the Golden View Farm and the engaging, real-world experiences it provides our students,” District Superintendent Carol Hansen said. “The wonderful improvements that have been made ensure that both our students and animals thrive in a safe and conducive learning environment.”
Golden View Elementary students participate
Golden View Elementary students participate
Farm animal education
Farm animal education
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Dexter the Oppossum (ITO Program Animal)
Dexter the Oppossum (ITO Program Animal)

Following guidance from the California Department of Public Health, all Southern California school districts closed in March to support state stay-at-home orders and slow the spread of COVID-19. This sent teachers scrambling to provide continued education in the midst of a pandemic. In response to the new normal of distance learning for students, Inside the Outdoors (ITO) quickly adapted our in-person field trip and Traveling Scientist programs to virtual programming that will accommodate at-home learning for the foreseeable future.

Inside the Outdoors is working with district personnel, teachers and parent leaders to ensure lessons and activities are available to all students and their families for distance learning. When students do return to the classroom the virtual and distance learning resources developed will remain available to teachers and will extend the impact of in-person field trip and Traveling Scientist programs.

Distance learning lessons use the same curriculum and activities K-12th grade students experience in our in-person programs and include virtual field trips at one of Inside the Outdoors’ outdoor education sites, web-based Traveling Scientist programs, animal studies, student activities such as nearby nature investigations (what can students do right outside their door), professional learning webinars for teachers, providers, and parents, civic engagement activities, and a photography journal.

An example of virtual programming is The Choice Is Yours: 5 R’s. ITO Program Naturalists livestream lessons, activities and present live animals that educate students on the 5 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Repurpose and Recycle. Additional experiences may include helping students examine the water cycle and environmental issues related to water with distance learning activities that teach about the importance of conservation, and virtually exploring the pristine environment at Inside the Outdoors’ Rancho Sonado site in Silverado Canyon to identify significant features and patterns in the diverse ecosystem.

All Inside the Outdoors programs support the Next Generation Science Standards and the California Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&C’s), which allows students to learn classroom content through the lens of human impact on natural systems. Students do not merely memorize facts, they learn academic concepts and processes that can be applied to solve environmental priorities and real-life problems in their local communities.

We deeply value our community and corporate partners as they continue to support Inside the Outdoors programming during this unprecedented time and make distance learning a priority for Southern California students.

Catching wildlife on the trail cam
Catching wildlife on the trail cam

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Organization Information

Inside the Outdoors Foundation

Location: Silverado, Ca - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @itofoundation@yahoo.com
Project Leader:
Lori Kiesser
Program Development Manager
Costa Mesa, California United States
$13,755 raised of $50,000 goal
 
179 donations
$36,245 to go
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