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

Project Report | Jul 24, 2017
School Gardens Help Children Learn, Connect, and Thrive

By Lori Kiesser | Development Director

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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Apr 27, 2017
Watch the Gardens Grow

By Lori Kiesser | Development Officer

Feb 2, 2017
Brea Olinda High School

By ian Hanigan/Lori Kiesser | CIO/Development Officer

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Organization Information

Inside the Outdoors Foundation

Location: Costa Mesa, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @itofoundation
Project Leader:
Sara Ludovise
Program Development Manager
Costa Mesa , California United States

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