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
What About Water?
What About Water?

Inside the Outdoors’ What About Water? program builds tomorrow's environmental leaders through Traveling Scientist and Service-Learning lessons that empower, engage, and educate students, teachers, and the community on water issues, awareness and conservation practices.

Hands-on lessons allow students to interact with a science concept, rather than just read about it or hear about it in a lecture, bringing the concept to life. Students may read about water recycling, but not really understand the process until they perform an experiment to separate coffee grounds from waste water. They may hear about water conservation from their teacher, but not grasp how important that is until they see the impact of the drought on a local freshwater pond. Research shows that hands-on lessons allow students of all learning styles to engage actively and retain what they have learned.

Two Traveling Scientist visits turn classrooms into hands-on science laboratories where students examine the water cycle, learn how pollution enters the watershed, conduct campus and home water audits, and develop ways to conserve water. Service-Learning gives students a voice and turns lessons into real-life action when they develop and implement a campus/environmental stewardship project to engage peers and the public in meaningful conservation efforts.

Service-Learning focuses on results-oriented activities that reinforce water education lessons by connecting classroom concepts to real-life projects. Change is more likely to be sustained when students learn AND take action. Research shows that Service-Learning has a lasting impact on communities as students become leaders with a voice in finding the solutions to societal issues.

Water Expos help students become educators as the entire campus is engaged in environmental stewardship activities such as water surveys, poster presentations, and lunch time interactive water education exhibits and games while encouraging water conservation pledges from their peers. Inside the Outdoors helps to host these 1-day water education fairs where student created education materials such as posters, PSA’s and newsletters enhance the education campus-wide.

The goal of What About Water programs and Water Expos are to sustain long-term water awareness, water conservation practices and behavior changes at schools and in the community.

While the need for science continues to rise, school budgets continue to be slashed, forcing schools to cut field trips, science labs, and other resources vital to reversing those negative trends. Community support is needed to restore resources to the classroom and improve academic outcomes as more than 60% of the students served by ITO come from impoverished communities, where students require sponsorships to attend. Funding from the Municipal Water District of Orange County and COX Charities make programs like What About Water? available to low-income students and underserved communities while promoting environmental conservation and stewardship.

“Service-Learning projects have helped me recognize and better understand my own strengths and weaknesses. Throughout the process, I’ve also learned that, no matter my age, I do have the ability to make a significant and worthwhile change in my community.” - Allison C., student from Mission Viejo HS

 

Quotes from What About Water? Participants

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about water.” -Student, Mission Viejo HS

We had even more traffic at our Water Expo this year. The students created games to engage their peers and encouraged everyone to make a water pledge.” -Gwen Harris, Health Science Teacher – El Toro HS

We are so thankful for the amazing partnership we’ve forged with Inside the Outdoors. The Water Expo provided a wonderful creative outlet for students to take what they’ve learned and share it with others.” -Andrea Ramos, AP Environmental Science Teacher – Brea Olinda HS

Fun Facts - Student Research

  • It takes 3 gallons of water to flush a toilet
  • Showers use 2.5 gallons per minute
  • An average of 167 water bottles are consumed per person each year in the U.S.
  • The U.S. uses 400 billion gallons of water each day
  • It takes 900 gallons of water to produce an 8 oz. steak and only 20 gallons to produce a half pound of vegetables
  • .024% of the world’s water is available to us as liquid freshwater
  • 5.7 billion gallons of water is used to flush toilets annually in the U.S.
  • The average household drinks 1600 – 2000 gallons of water each year
  • Tap water costs $.004 per gallon, Bottled water costs $1.22 per gallon
  • Households can save an average of $1825 - $2312 per year by drinking filter water at home instead of buying bottled water

 

Ways to Conserve Water
Ways to Conserve Water
Water Bottle Usage in the US
Water Bottle Usage in the US
Water Conservation Pledge
Water Conservation Pledge
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Apollo
Apollo

 

If you were asked to share your first fond memory of science, you might cringe.  Or, you might have a flashback to a class where you struggled to pass a test. You might not be able to recall a memory.  But what if you were asked to describe your first fond memory seeing a hummingbird hover over a flower or a meteor shower in the night sky? It is likely that you can vividly describe a similar experience right down to where you were and what you felt.

Experiences in nature often produce moments of awe that leave impressions of a lifetime. In "Awesome awe: The emotion that gives us superpowers," New Scientist author Jo Merchant shared that "awe is the feeling we get when we are confronted by something that transcends our frame of reference."  According to Merchant, scientists have found that awe can be reliably reproduced in nature.  And, it is such powerful emotion that "even mild awe can change our attitudes and behavior."

So where do the experiences students have with Inside the Outdoors fit into the equation?  

Imagine if you're a 5th grade student from a community where your playground is the street or a vacant lot. Where community members have access to 20 feet of open space (your mattress is probably about 27 square feet). You cannot go to the park because there isn't one in your neighborhood.

You head to school one morning and board a bus for your Inside the Outdoors field trip. Upon arrival at the field trip site, you step off the bus and you smell the ocean.  You hear the waves crashing on the rocks.  You see a vast ocean, birds searching for food, and tide pools teaming with life. Science becomes real. It becomes awesome. 

After the field trip, you remember how you felt, what you saw, and what you learned.  When your teacher talks about adaptation, you think about the tiny little crabs who have figured out how to live in the intertidal zone. You connected with something bigger than yourself and science made that happen.

What if you're a high school student in an alternative education situation because you've given up on learning?  You come to class each day pretty sure no one can surprise you or make you care. But your teacher is determined to give you the best chance at learning so he invites an Inside the Outdoors' Traveling Scientist to visit the class.  Five minutes into the visit, you hear the call of a hawk. You look around the classroom and see canvas covering what looks like a large animal travel crate. Soon, the Traveling Scientist introduces Apollo, a majestic redtail hawk. Apollo spreads his wings and you can see his eyes, talons, and beak. You hear that Apollo is part of Inside the Outdoors because someone thought it would be a good idea to remove him from his nest as a baby.  He's imprinted.  You are determined to learn everything you can about this beautiful creature and you'll remember him for the rest of your life.  You decide at that moment to become a wildlife biologist or a park ranger.  You realize that you're excited about learning and that you can actually learn. Suddenly, one experience with a hawk changes your trajectory.

The moments of awe described above are real experiences described by students who participated in an Inside the Outdoors program.  Similar experiences are replicated every day of the school year and throughout the summer thanks to the generous community support Inside the Outdoors Foundation receives from community members. 

Thank you for helping us create moments of awe.

Crystal Cove State Beach Tide Pools
Crystal Cove State Beach Tide Pools
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Traveling Scientist: Creature Feature
Traveling Scientist: Creature Feature

Inside the Outdoors Traveling Scientist programs provide hands-on opportunities for students from grades K – 12 to develop an awareness and appreciation of the sciences through exploration of the animal kingdom, California’s unique biodiversity, energy and health to name a few. In addition, the lessons students learn through Inside the Outdoors programs give them a foundation of science literacy that leads to environmental stewardship. Students become active in their communities as they look for solutions to address the larger environmental issues.

When students participate in a Traveling Scientist program, textbooks come to life through the five senses. Hawks, owls, and other raptors are brought into the classroom to teach students about the roles these predators play in the balance of nature. Students visit lab stations which include experiencing hawk vision and discovering the diet of an owl through an owl pellet dissection, turning science into real-life experiences through seeing and touching local wildlife.

Traveling Scientist programs make science fun for students of all ages and grade levels. Programs like Creature Feature (PreK), Me and My World (K) and Amazing Animals (K-12) introduce students to the animal world where they learn and explore the unique characteristics and behaviors of mammals, reptiles, birds, and other species of the animal kingdom. In Scales or Slime (1) students compare and contrast reptiles and amphibians to discover the characteristics of each class of animals. Experiencing snakes, lizards, frogs, and salamanders through their sense of touch and sight, students develop a more positive attitude towards these animals. Students discover what makes birds unique as they work cooperatively and visit different lab stations to learn about the natural history of birds in the Feather Fun (2) program. Traveling Scientists bring live birds to show students their special adaptations and habitats. Hawks, owls, and other raptors are brought into the classroom to teach students about the roles these predators play in the balance of nature in the Birds of Prey (K-12) program. Stereotypes and fear towards insects and spiders are lessened as students learn about the animals’ body parts and experience the thrill of touching live arthropods in Eight Legs or Six? (3). Through lab stations, students discover the important role some of these animals have on Earth as decomposers.

Inside the Outdoors hands-on experiences encourage students to use their innate curiosity to discover science concepts that they might struggle with in books or on screens. These lessons integrate curriculum aligned with California Content Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, making learning enjoyable and more understandable for students who have a variety of learning styles.

Hands-on learning has been shown to bridge language barriers and close the academic achievement gap. By providing programs that are low-cost or free, with the help of generous donors in the community and through corporate funding, students from underserved communities have access to the same programs as their more affluent counterparts. This is particularly important among at-risk students from low-income communities, where high school drop-out rates are higher.

Reports indicate U.S. students finished 25th in math and 17th in science in the ranking of 31 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (National Math + Science Initiative.) Local programs to help improve that standing must be aligned with state academic standards so that they complement classroom learning. They should also include techniques that evoke a child’s sense of play, creativity and discovery because research shows that this kind of engagement will “lead to a depth of understanding and commitment that are often less possible when the same material is encountered in books or on screen.” (Making Science Matter.)

Traveling Scientist: Birds of Prey
Traveling Scientist: Birds of Prey
Traveling Scientist: Scales or Slime?
Traveling Scientist: Scales or Slime?
Traveling Scientist: Amazing Animals
Traveling Scientist: Amazing Animals
Summer Camp fun with Rosie the Tarantula
Summer Camp fun with Rosie the Tarantula
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Mango Elementary School Garden
Mango Elementary School Garden

I grew up in a small town in Ohio. Bordering my elementary school were woods filled with creeks, wildlife, and pathways that led to hours of learning. My teachers routinely took us into those woods.

There, we studied everything from art to science. We drew pictures of trees filled with birds and butterflies. We built secret forts. We turned over logs to look for bugs as part of our science class. Every student knew and loved those woods.

My childhood experiences inform my work as an adult. Today, I co-lead Inside the Outdoors, an environmental education program in Southern California. We connect over 120,000 children each year to nature’s classroom. The most challenging part of my job is the significant number of families in my area who lack access to nature. The mountains, beach, forest, and desert are all within an hour’s drive – but many families have never been there. Backyard or nearby nature is virtually non-existent. Our communities are concrete. Schoolyards are often small and have only minimal ornamental landscaping. It is heartbreaking to realize that while the students can see the mountains from their schoolyards and homes, they do not know what it feels like to spend time in nature.

Trying to find solutions to the disconnect from nature requires creative thinking. During a Children and Nature Network Conference a few years ago, I met John Thielbahr. John is a dedicated advocate for Natural Teachers and the outdoor classroom. His mentorship guided our work to develop opportunities to connect to nature through schools. Nurturing John’s ideas and community support from the Disneyland Resort and OC Waste and Recycling, Inside the Outdoors has helped ten schools build butterfly and vegetable gardens.

These gardens serve as a place to learn, connect, and restore the soul.

  • Students at Brea Olinda High School learn science in their garden. They work side-by-side with students of all abilities to plant, nurture and harvest vegetables used to explore the senses of sight, taste, touch and smell through hands-on lessons.
  • Students, parents, teachers, and staff at Mango Elementary School partnered with Inside the Outdoors and Auto Club Speedway volunteers to transform an unused grassy area into a native plant outdoor classroom
  • An alternative education class turned a muddy area outside of their classroom in a shopping center into a vegetable garden. They were impacted so significantly by the tiny garden that they paid it forward by helping a nearby Boys & Girls Club start a garden composting program.

The students and teachers who use these gardens gain a better understanding of science. They learn to accept others and they give back to their community. Each day they spend in the garden strengthens their connection to the natural world. Even casual observers witness how greening a schoolyard nurtures children and education. A garden creates a space for teachers to guide students through hands-on learning. It connects children to nature, to each other, and to learning. It transforms learning into doing.

This year, Inside the Outdoors will help ten additional schools turn small unused areas into high impact natural spaces where students will get their hands dirty as they learn, develop teamwork skills, and spend time immersed in nature.

In these gardens, students will grow their own lives.

Native Plant Garden and Outdoor Classroom
Native Plant Garden and Outdoor Classroom
Luther Elementary School Garden
Luther Elementary School Garden
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PreKinder student looks over the new school garden
PreKinder student looks over the new school garden

I grew up in a small town in Ohio. Bordering my elementary school were woods filled with creeks, wildlife, and pathways that led to hours of learning. My teachers routinely took us into those woods.

There, we studied everything from art to science. We drew pictures of trees filled with birds and butterflies. We built secret forts. We turned over logs to look for bugs as part of our science class. Every student knew and loved those woods. 

My childhood experiences inform my work as an adult. Today, I co-lead Inside the Outdoors, an environmental education program in Southern California. We connect over 120,000 children each year to nature’s classroom. The most challenging part of my job is the significant number of families in my area who lack access to nature. The mountains, beach, forest, and desert are all within an hour’s drive – but many families have never been there. Backyard or nearby nature is virtually non-existent. Our communities are concrete.  Schoolyards are often small and have only minimal ornamental landscaping. It is heartbreaking to realize that while the students can see the mountains from their schoolyards and homes, they do not know what it feels like to spend time in nature.

With community support, Inside the Outdoors has helped ten schools build butterfly and vegetable gardens. These gardens serve as a place to learn, connect, and restore the soul.

  • With help from Boeing volunteers, Pitzer College students, parents, and Inside the Outdoors' staff, elementary school students from West Randall Elementary transformed a rocky unused area into a California native plant garden. As soon as the garden installation was complete, a young child wandered the school's new garden in awe, already immersed in the school's new outdoor classroom.
  • Special needs students from an alternative education high school joined classmates, teachers, Disneyland VoluntEARS, and Inside the Outdoors' staff to create a garden were science comes to life and makes learning fun. 
  • Students, parents, teachers, and staff at Mango Elementary School partnered with Inside the Outdoors and Auto Club Speedway volunteers to transform an unused grassy area into a native plant reading garden.
  • Students from Chino Hills High School joined teachers, Boeing volunteers, and Inside the Outdoors' staff to create a garden for science, culinary arts, language arts, and more!

The students and teachers who use these gardens gain a better understanding of science. They learn to accept others and they give back to their community. Each day they spend in the garden strengthens their connection to the natural world. Even casual observers witness how greening a schoolyard nurtures children and education. A garden creates a space for teachers to guide students through hands-on learning. It connects children to nature, to each other, and to learning. It transforms learning into doing.

This year, Inside the Outdoors is partnering with Boeing to help ten additional schools turn small unused areas into high impact natural spaces where students will get their hands dirty as they learn, develop teamwork skills, and spend time immersed in nature. 

In these gardens, students will grow their own lives.

Students of all abilities thrive in school gardens
Students of all abilities thrive in school gardens
Families work together to create a school garden
Families work together to create a school garden
Volunteers & teachers at Chino Hills High School
Volunteers & teachers at Chino Hills High School

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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
$13,805 raised of $50,000 goal
 
180 donations
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