Connecting Children to Nature

by Inside the Outdoors Foundation
Mayor, Diane Brooks Dixon & Boeing Volunteers
Mayor, Diane Brooks Dixon & Boeing Volunteers

On Saturday, July 23, 2016, sixty Boeing and community volunteers descended upon the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve with sleeves rolled up and gloves in hand, ready to put in a morning of hard labor. The Mayor of Newport Beach, Diane Brooks Dixon, gave opening remarks and thanked volunteers for giving back to the community.

Boeing Volunteers participated in hand-watering 1500 newly planted native species in three areas of the Preserve. It is important to nurture new and existing native plants in the Preserve so that the endangered animals calling this place home can thrive.

Upper Newport Bay has 13 different habitats and 21 distinct plant communities supporting life at the estuary. Preservation and restoration is crucial in supporting biodiversity. Non-native plants are often invasive and can overrun native plant species which support multitudes of organisms that rely on them for nesting, shelter and food. Habitat restoration and preservation projects including invasive plant removal, seedling and native planting, nesting preparation, predator control, trail maintenance and coastal clean-up are a few of the projects volunteers engaged in throughout the year.

Upper Newport Bay is the largest of only a few remaining natural estuaries in Southern California and an important rest stop or home to migrating birds, up to 30,000 can be seen daily in winter months. This wetland ecosystem in the Pacific Flyway is home to 200 species of birds, including several endangered and threatened species such as the California Gnatcatcher, Light-Footed Clapper Rail, and the Belding's Savannah Sparrow. The area is highly urbanized and critical habitat must be restored in order to protect the ecosystem.

During the Global Month of Service, Boeing and community volunteers also assembled and painted compost bins and bird boxes to be donated to Orange County schools in underserved communities with existing garden or with plans to install a new garden through an ITOF service-learning project. Along with the compost bins and bird boxes, Inside the Outdoors Foundation will provide education and guidance to students and teachers on the importance of composting as part of the 5 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Repurpose, and Recycle. The Boeing Company donated materials and supplies, as well as volunteers who contributed 180 volunteer hours to the preservation of habitat at the Upper Newport Bay.

Volunteers hand-water 1500 native plant species
Volunteers hand-water 1500 native plant species
Building compost bin for low-income schools
Building compost bin for low-income schools
Decorated bird boxes will be donated to shcools
Decorated bird boxes will be donated to shcools
Tide pool exploration!
Tide pool exploration!

Merriam Webster defines tide pool as "an area of water that is left on a beach after the tide has fallen."  When a student is on an Inside the Outdoors field trip at Crystal Cover State Park, they define tide pools a little differently.  It the taste of the salt in the tidal mist.  It is the smell of the ocean and the creatures living in the intertidal zone. Its a tiny red crab and a limpet and how animals adapt to live in one of the harshest ecosystems in Southern California. 

Inside the Outdoors programs at Crystal Cove bring science to life and connect students to one of the few protected stretches of coastline in Orange County. While at Crystal Cove, students explore the coastal bluffs, examine the sandy beach, and investigate the tidepools. Their textbooks come to life as they become scientists. While at the park, students experience: 

Students learn about the environmental factors that affect tidepool organisms. Using clue cards and pictures to find living things in the tidepools, they discover the adaptations of various organisms in the intertidal ecosystem.

Students learn about the major phyla of invertebrates found in tidepools. They classify shells and preserved specimens using common characteristics and learn the life history of some of the animals in the tidepools.

Bluff Ecosystem
Working in teams, students discover the functions of several organisms in this ecosystem and classify them according to their notes. Students also learn how these animals and plants interact and depend on each other for survival.

Students classify several objects they find on the beach as natural or unnatural and discuss the origin of the materials and their function, if any, on the beach.

Creature Feature
Students use their creative talent to build a creature in the sand that has the characteristics of one of the invertebrate phyla.

Many of the students who visit Crystal Cove live a few miles from the beach but have never seen the ocean. Inside the Outdoors programs change that, creating memorable experiences that build the foundation for a life-long love of science and a better understanding of how humans interact with the environment.


2015 Governor
2015 Governor's Award

A waste-reduction partnership between the Orange County Department of Education’s Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling has received the state’s highest environmental honor.

On the heels of netting a major accolade from the California School Boards Association, Project Zero Waste, a service-learning program that empowers students with hands-on environmental science instruction, has earned its collaborators the prestigious Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, or GEELA.

OCDE and OC Waste & Recycling were jointly recognized — along with just 11 other organizations — Tuesday night at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento.

In the photo above, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez, left, is joined on stage by Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools; Isabel Rios, recycling and environmental programs manager with OC Waste & Recycling; Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors; and state Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program,” Kiesser said. “The GEELA represents the top environmental award in the state, and it’s a testament to the collaborative efforts of Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, which are promoting sustainability and changing lives.”

Project Zero Waste teaches students the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors Field Trips as well as in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Program participants get to apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which include campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up activities and other student-led activities.

The program, which in December, which in December won the California School Board Association's Golden Bell Award, has offered science instruction to more than 325,000 students since it began in 2009. Follow-up assessments show these lessons increase STEM knowledge by an average of 14 percent, and schools engaging in Project Zero Waste have reduced their trash by up to 20,000 pounds annually.

Geelaseal“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said recently. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

Established in 1993, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals, companies and organizations that use sustainable business practices to conserve energy, reduce waste or prevent pollution while contributing to their local economy.

Finalists are selected by a panel of judges that includes the Governor’s Office and the secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

Each year, the panel evaluates and announces winners in the following categories: Environmental Education; Ecosystem and Land Use Stewardship; Climate Change; Zero Emission Vehicle Dealers; Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities; and Waste Reduction.

To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and be sure to visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved.

Amazing Environmental Ed Programs for All Ages!!
Amazing Environmental Ed Programs for All Ages!!
Student-Led Projects - MLK Day of Service
Student-Led Projects - MLK Day of Service


Nature's Outdoor Classroom

A 2010-14 breakdown by the U.S. Forest Service of visitors to national forests and wilderness areas shows a low percentage of diverse populations getting outdoors:

* American Indian or Alaska Native = 2.3% national forests and 1.7% wilderness;

* Asian = 2.3% national forests and 3.1% wilderness;

* Black or African-American = 1.2% national forests and 0.7% wilderness;

* Hawaiian or Pacific Islander = 1.2% national forests and 0.7% wilderness;

* White = 94.9% national forest and 95.6% wilderness;

* Spanish, Hispanic or Latino = 5.5% national forest and 5.9% wilderness.

Inside the Outdoors (ITO) is doing its part to change that by offering multicultural education to provide K-12 students and families from diverse communities with an equal opportunity to learn in a unique outdoor environment.  Inside the Outdoors Foundation supports these programs by providing sponsorships to 60% of the participants through grant acquired funding from corporate and private funders, foundations and contracts.

Richard Louv, Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus, Children & Nature Network and author of, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, in his commentary on The New Nature Movement, wrote “Natural places can give people a sense of peace, meaning, security, not only in wilderness, but in the most densely populated urban neighborhood. I’ve called this phenomenon human/nature social capital.”

Inside the Outdoors programs (Field Trips: 15 locations, Traveling Scientist: 18 programs, Service-Learning: variety and Community Events & Volunteer Days: multiple) support and provide multicultural education in the following ways:

        Creating a welcoming, inclusive environment

  • Participation creates a common ground by providing experiences that are new to everyone regardless of their cultural background
  • Staff foster an atmosphere of cooperation and tolerance
  • Students are expected to show respect for the earth, living things they encounter through an ITO program, and also for each other as individuals
  • ITO staff are diverse in gender, age and cultural background
  • Long-term partnerships with Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles County schools increase parent confidence and student participation
  • ITO materials reflect a diverse population

Incorporating educational best practices for English learners and diverse cultures

  • Hands-on, minds-on curriculum addresses multiple learning styles: kinesthetic, tactile, visual, auditory, musical
  • Scaffolding: connecting the learning to students’ prior knowledge and experience
  • Cooperative learning and peer-to-peer teaching involve all students
  • EPR – Every Pupil Responds: students are encouraged to “show” their answer as a group using hand signs
  • “Wait time” for responses is built into questions to allow all students time to process the question and come up with an answer
  • Curricular materials are designed to reflect a diverse population and use visuals to complement the words used 

Creating multiple access points for community engagement

  • Field Trips and Community Events are held in a wide variety of locations, allowing each participant to access environmental education in the way that is most convenient and compelling to them
  • ITO aggressively pursues funding to keep costs down and reach out to low income students
  • Service-Learning changes education into action and brings it back to the families and communities
  • Collaboration with Orange County schools with diverse multicultural populations of students and educators increase ITO’s ability to provide relevant content

Research confirms what we already know… experiences outdoors have a positive impact on the development of the whole child.  Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician and founder of one of the country’s first “green” pediatric practices, The Whole Child Center, published an article in Mind Body Green titled, 7 Science-Backed Reasons To Get Your Kids Outside, which provides compelling insight from encouraging exercise to reducing anxiety, building a sense of community and deeper connections with family to increased intelligence.  The reason that excites us most is that childhood exposure to natural settings is associated with a greater interest in environmental stewardship — and ultimately with pursuing professional careers and adult hobbies connected to nature and the environment.

Discovering adaptations of tidepool organisms
Discovering adaptations of tidepool organisms
School Gardens - connecting the campus to learning
School Gardens - connecting the campus to learning
Students conduct water quality experiments
Students conduct water quality experiments
Reading food labels and making healthier choices
Reading food labels and making healthier choices
Exploration Hike - look for clues of animal life
Exploration Hike - look for clues of animal life
Wildflower Butterfly Garden starter kits
Wildflower Butterfly Garden starter kits

On Sunday, August 16, 2015, Inside the Outdoors Foundation partnered with Disney Citizenship and Disney VoluntEARS at the D23 Expo to host a volunteer project involving guests at the event.  Attendees worked their way through an assembly line constructing 3,500 wildflower butterfly garden started kits and picked up water saving tip materials and resources, provided by the Municipal Water District of Orange County and Anaheim Public Utilities, along the way.  These kits, including California native butterfly mix seeds, peat pots, soil pellets and growing and planting instructions, were also hand decorated by D23 patrons. 

The Wildflower Butterfly Garden starter kits will be donated to schools in underserved communities to be used as a fundraising option.  All proceeds from the sale of the starter kits will be used to support student field trips and activities providing powerful hands-on experiences that leave children with a lifelong enthusiasm for the environment. 

Watch the wonder of nature come alive in your garden.  Each started kit includes water-wise tips and resources and the following information:

Why do butterflies matter?

Butterflies vivid wing coloration and fluttering flight path lend a special touch of beauty to nature.  However, butterflies do more than just paint a pretty picture.  They help flower pollinate, eat weed plants and provide a food source for other animals.  Their presence or absence can also tell us a lot about the local environment.

Butterflies are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems.  Like bees and other pollinators, butterflies pick up pollen while they sip a flower’s nectar.  Once they’re off to another plant, the pollen goes with them, helping pollinate the plant species.  One third of the food we eat depends on the work of pollinators such as butterflies.

Why are native plants important to water conservation?

North American native plants are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human activities, urban development, and the introduction of invasive species.  The loss of native plant communities has reduced wildlife habitat and the genetic diversity necessary for balanced ecosystems. 

Native wildflowers, such as Goldfields, Plantain, Sky Lupine and Owl’s Clover, do much more than add beauty to the landscape.  These plants help conserve water, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, protect the soil and save money by reducing maintenance costs and the need for fertilizer and pesticides.

Native plants are easier to grow because they are already adapted to the soil and climate of California and their water needs are more in balance with what nature provides.  Replacing a portion of your lawn with native plants can save 120 gallons of watering for every 1000 s/f of turf removed, which is equivalent to (4) six-minute showers.

Inside the Outdoors Foundation is grateful to all of our partners on this project for helping to build environmental stewards for tomorrow.

D23 Expo visitors volunteer to support students
D23 Expo visitors volunteer to support students
Sponsorship to support K-12 environmental programs
Sponsorship to support K-12 environmental programs
3,500 kits scheduled to be delivered to schools
3,500 kits scheduled to be delivered to schools

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Organization Information

Inside the Outdoors Foundation

Location: Silverado, Ca - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lori Kiesser
Program Development Manager
Costa Mesa, California United States

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