Connecting Children to Nature

by Inside the Outdoors Foundation
Vetted
Outdoor living laboratory
Outdoor living laboratory

Programs including students, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and stewardship improve education outcomes and build leadership skills for youth. Inside the Outdoors is in its third year of partnering with the Orange County Department of Education’s alternative education students at Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy (SYCA), and multiple community partners to inspire youth people to discover, engage in and advocate for the environment. Traveling Scientist classroom visits, Field Trips, Service-Leaning community projects, and advocacy connect classroom learning through STEM-focused environmental education.

Alternative education teacher Mike Gill described that the Inside the Outdoors STEM-learning interactive field trips connected his students to learning in a powerful way. “It was like a light bulb going off. My students realized that they could learn and it changed them,” Michael shared. During the three year partnership, over 1,000 at-risk youth from SYCA have benefited through a 20% increase in assessment scores in science, technology, engineering and math. Overall, academic knowledge in STEM disciplines increased 53% in male students and 100% in female students documented by pre- and –post assessment data.

These students are documented as “at-risk” and have little success learning in a traditional educational environment, the learning environment being provided with the assistance of a grant by the TK Foundation chances their previous learning failures into successes. Having a visual tactile interface (iPads) and using them in the field engages these students in a deeper way than traditional classroom activities. In addition to field study, iPads were used with a downloaded educational app to dissect frogs virtually, allowing students the experience where a live animal lab was not possible. As a result, students began to make connections to the usage of technology in real life practical ways as well as considering possible careers in Science and Engineering fields.

 

SUCCESSES:

Field Trips

Students visited various field sites throughout Orange County. Popular among students was the Live Animal station where participants saw and touched a live mammal and reptile representative of animals in this ecosystem and learn how their adaptations enable them to survive. Continuing their learning, students explored local ecology in the pristine environment of Rancho Sonado represented by a pond, a riparian area, oak woodland, and chaparral making discoveries through hands-on activities.

Traveling Scientist

Students explored various STEM topics through hands-on labs. These programs provided hands-on opportunities for students to develop an awareness and appreciation of the sciences through the exploration of the animal kingdom and physical science concepts while fostering a commitment to the protection and understanding of the environment and community. One of the favorite lessons expressed by students was the Traveling Scientist live animal study. A Hawk, an owl and other raptors were brought into the classroom to teach students about the roles these predators play in nature. Students visited lab stations to experience hawk vision and discovered the diet of an owl through an owl pellet dissection. A student was noted as saying “When I see the Traveling Scientist from Inside the Outdoors I know it is going to be a good day.”

Service-Learning

A minimum of 40 hours of community service was required of each student attending Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy. Many students volunteered their time to install and nurture a demonstration garden at the SYCA location. In addition, SYCA students worked alongside community members and mentors from Disney, Boeing and Simple Green restoring habitat at the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge for a National Public Lands Day event.

Highlight:

A male student from Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy shared that the Field Trips, Traveling Scientist sessions and Service-Learning projects made such an impact on his life that he wants to get his younger brother involved with Inside the Outdoors programs to ensure that he has opportunities to keep out of trouble by making a difference in his community and seeing the possibilities of a future in the field of science. His goal is to save enough money to send his younger brother to ITO’s week-long Summer Day Camp in 2015.

Water testing at Caspers Wilderness Park
Water testing at Caspers Wilderness Park
Learning about native wildlife - Acorn the Opossum
Learning about native wildlife - Acorn the Opossum
Ball Python - Pickles
Ball Python - Pickles
Inside the Outdoors Youth Stewardship Council
Inside the Outdoors Youth Stewardship Council

Inside the Outdoors (ITO) Youth Stewardship Council (YSC) Service-Learning programs address the need for environmental education and natural resource conservation by using real life experiences that turn classroom lessons into action and engage students in environmental stewardship.  YSC builds a foundation first through environmental education focused on natural resource conservation.  Education turns into action through environmental Service-Learning projects that benefit the schools and the community.  YSC allows youth to develop the business, social responsibility, and collaboration skills needed to be leaders in the global economy. 

YSC encompasses meaningful service involving student leaders of similar age and passion in every aspect of a project from the pilot to full implementation.   Students determine what is relevant to them, work with mentors and subject matter experts to identify a plan, and then implement the project.  The environmental issues they are addressing are global issues that are impacting their communities, as well.  Participation in YSC also allows youth to create a forum and resources that will be relevant to young people nationally.

YSC was piloted in 2012 with four schools and has since grown to ten schools, benefiting over 25,000 youth and community members.  Each school has planned and implemented a campus or community project benefiting the environment.  Projects include school gardens, composting, recycling programs, campus and community restoration, to name a few.

 “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.”

The quote and actions of Allison, a Senior at Mission Viejo HS, and other Inside the Outdoors Youth Stewardship Council (YSC) members inspired State Farm to fund a large grant expanding the Service-Learning and leadership program to additional students and schools in Orange County.

On November 22, 2014, The State Farm Youth Advisory Board and the local State Farm team presented a check to the YSC at a Kick-Off event in Silverado Canyon.  Assembly member Don Wagner and a representative from Supervisor Todd Spitzer's office attended the event in support of the environmental stewardship these youth are leading.

More than 30 students were on hand representing ten high schools in Orange County.  The YSC Kick-Off event treated students to three engaging activities that sparked their interest and creativity in making a difference through stewardship of the environment.  Activity one included an exploration hike where students looked for clues of plant and animal life. Scat, tracks, and other evidence helped them learn about predators and prey.  Through this interactive exercise, they learned how Native Americans used the plants for food, medicine, and tools, and how animals use the plants for food and shelter.  Students also saw and touched a live mammal and reptile representative of animals in this ecosystem and learned how their adaptations enable them to survive.  Activity two spotlighted Aria and Allison, Mission Viejo high school H.O.P. (Help Our Planet) club leaders where they highlighted the process of establishing a successful recycling program at their school.  The long-term goal of the recycling program is to see the school have zero waste- no recycling, no trash, no food waste, thus reducing the amount of materials in the landfill and creating a community that sustains itself.  Activity three was presented by Christiane Maertens, Deputy Director of North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).  Ms. Maertens is dedicated to inspiring and empowering youth and educators through environmental education and facilitated a discussion with YSC students on community organizing and engagement in environmental stewardship projects.

Continued support from generous donors makes it possible for students like Allison to recognize their own potential.

Campus Clean-up
Campus Clean-up
MVHS recycling program student-led presentation
MVHS recycling program student-led presentation
Environmental Exploration Hike
Environmental Exploration Hike
Outdoor teaching lab
Outdoor teaching lab

Links:

Team-building activity
Team-building activity

Summer Day Camp

Exploration, wilderness survival, and animal tracking are just a few activities campers experienced during their outdoor adventures this summer at Rancho Sonado, Shipley Nature Center and Irvine Regional Park.

Inside the Outdoors (ITO) hosted six weeks of Summer Day Camp, Youth Leadership Camp and Junior Naturalist training focusing on environmental education for 261 children, ages 6-18, with diverse themes such as; Wild Wetlands, Survivor: Ultimate Camp, W.O.W.: Wonders of Wildlife and Building Up STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).  Summer Day Campers experienced life as a water droplet, constructed natural shelters and sharpened their senses to observe the natural world and see, smell, feel, taste and hear like the animals.  Youth Leadership Camp, for 12-15 year-olds, focused on advanced STEM education and built skills in communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership through interactive and thought-provoking activities empowering youth to succeed in the world.  Junior Naturalist training helped 16-18 year-olds to earn service hours and master skills as future Field Naturalists who will inspire and motivate the youth leaders of tomorrow.

The Register’s 2014 Campership Fund and Project Save Our Surf sponsored a number of youth from Orange County for these outdoors environmental science opportunities. Twins, Ella and Jonah, attended Inside the Outdoors Summer Day Camp with the help of a campership. The 7-year-olds excitedly talked over each other about the day’s tie-dye shirt projects, building a fort in the 18-acre habitat of Irvine Regional Park and composting their leftovers from lunch on the car ride home with their Mom.   The single mom noted that her children have become more engaged and aware of recycling and other environmental issues since attending camp – a great start to building environmental stewardship. ITO’s Summer Day Camp is in its 8th year and has hosted 1807 campers, 25% through sponsored camperships, allowing children from all economic backgrounds the opportunity of unforgettable hands-on experiences about nature.

 

Volunteerism

Volunteers are an invaluable resource to Inside the Outdoors. Through volunteerism, individuals are actively involving themselves with Inside the Outdoors and contributing to its mission to expand students, teachers and the community’s knowledge, understanding, and stewardship of the environment. Year-round students, families, community members and corporate partners and executives volunteer with Inside the Outdoors to restore natural habitats, remove invasive plants, maintain trails, build awareness and understanding of environmental issues and protect wildlife.  Volunteers help us enhance existing programs by providing the community with an opportunity to connect children to nature and creating healthier, happier and smarter environmental stewards of tomorrow.

Corporate partners such as Disney, Chevron, Starbucks, Cox Communications and US Bank frequently volunteer with Inside the Outdoors Foundation for coastal clean-up, habitat restoration and community outreach programs.

The Boeing Company regularly partners with Inside the Outdoors to mentor Orange County students on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related projects.

Visit www.insidetheoutdoors.org to learn about volunteer opportunities and community programs.

STEM activity
STEM activity
Sponsored campers thank donor
Sponsored campers thank donor
Ella, Mom and Jonah
Ella, Mom and Jonah
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

Links:

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

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Inside the Outdoors Foundation

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

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