Forest Service Takes Aim at Nature Deficit Disorder

A few weeks ago, Jasmin took note of the National Wildlife Federation's new effort to battle nature deficit disorder in kids. Now, the US Forest Service is getting involved with the launch of its $1.5 million "Kids in the Woods" program. Yesterday, Forest Service administrators announced its first round of grant recipients. Twenty-four different programs around the country will receive funds from the Forest Service and partners, including:

  • Nature Field Work Partnership — Harlem Link: Project supplements the school's science curriculum by exposing its students to surrounding forests, wetlands, and restoration sites throughout the New York City region. Partners include: Harlem Link Charter School, Meadowlands Environmental Center, NY Botanical Gardens, Forest Service Northern Research Station, NY.
  • Eco-Week: Project helps students experience the Rocky Mountains through a 3-day residential "Eco-week." They learn ecology standards, teambuilding and develop a connection to the natural world. Partners include: YMCA of the Rockies, CO State University, Poudre School District, Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, CO.
  • Latino Legacy: The project will offer on-site conservation education activities and programs designed specifically for Latino youth and families. The project design includes working within the Latino community to develop culturally appropriate programming; training 16 bilingual high school students to help facilitate on-site programs; evaluating developed program models; and providing program templates for other national forests. Partners include: Stephen F Austin University, Conroe Hispanic Force, USFWS, National Forests of Texas.
  • Sci-Fun Project: The project teaches students about Forest Service outdoor recreation research and biological research issues and methods and requires them to conduct outdoor recreation research and biological research on public lands in the Detroit metropolitan. They will report electronically to other Detroit students about their experiences and help evaluate the effectiveness of the project. Partners include: Henry Ford Academy, Greenfield Village, MI Dept of Natural Resources, USFWS, Urban Connections, Forest Service Eastern Regional Office, WI
While the primary aim of the program involves "[getting] kids out of the classroom and into the woods," Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell spelled out longer-term goals, also: "...we can inspire future conservation leaders, who can perpetuate the critical role nature role forests play in the quality of life for Americans." According to ENN, Deputy Chief also noted the need for workers in the Forest Service itself.

As getting kids into the outdoors has been shown to raise their environmental awareness and concern, we're delighted to see the Forest Service and partner organizations promoting and funding these efforts. We're particularly pleased to see that the process for awarding grants prioritized efforts aimed at urban and underserved young people. And we hope that such a program spurs innovation among non-profits dedicated to helping kids discover the joys of getting away from the television, and into the natural world. ::ENN and the US Forest Service

Image source: US Forest Service

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