Outdoor Nation believes in young leaders, so we're supporting your ideas...with cash! The best project ideas from each regional Outdoor Nation Youth Summit got seed money to get off the ground. In total, more than $50,000 was awarded to 20 projects, each focusing on mentoring, access or engagement.
Here the are:
Peer to peer mentoring is one of the most effective ways to introduce the outdoors to young people. Reach One Teach One will work with several schools in New York, on a pilot basis, to have young reliable college-age mentors address students to promote and organize outdoor activities and opportunities with local organizations. This awareness will lead to student outdoor appreciation and ultimately advocacy of outdoor activities during the school day.
Awareness and information is the first step toward understanding outdoor opportunities. An Hour for Earth will arrange, organize and implement short monthly presentations and tutorial sessions for middle & elementary age students on topics that range from recreation to conservation. Simple outdoor activities will be part of every program – empowering youth to bring these outdoor lessons home. This project will lead to increased exposure for important outdoor issues and ultimately passionate outdoor enthusiasts.
Colleges across the region have outdoor programs that have passionate students, access to gear, transportation and other resources. Urban Outdoors will work to connect local outdoor college programs with high schools in underserved communities -- giving underprivileged kids the opportunity to get outdoors as well as the chance to build a relationship with positive role models.
As in many areas across the south, Athens is a community with wide socioeconomic disparity and many children in low income areas that lack access to outdoor recreation opportunities. A pillar of the community is the University of Georgia – with thousands of passionate students ready to make a difference. Athens Inside Out will leverage the campus community to benefit the local area – providing at least five outdoor experiences for local at-risk youth.
Building on the Outdoor Nation Campus Club model, the second phase will pair college students with elementary school students to foster a lifelong connection to the natural world. In its first year, Phase 2 will work with one college and two elementary schools to organize 4 outdoor experiences as well as schedule monthly meetings to build a lasting relationship with the students and the schools. The goal will be to expand the program in the second year to three colleges and six elementary schools.
The goal of O.N.E. is to reconnect high school youth with the outdoors through an intensive experience that inspires confidence, continuing education, and a passion for the outdoors and environment. Specifically, the program will connect college student groups with local teachers to arrange and organize at least 3 extreme outdoor expeditions – sparking a broader interest in the outdoors.
Engaging community partner organizations is a top strategy for Outdoor Nation. Leveraging the existing infrastructure, Nature’s Big Brothers and Big Sisters will recruit/train high school students by using existing FamComp resources (program in California). This training will teach the young leaders of Big Brothers / Big Sisters to be safe outdoor leaders and positive mentors. Once trained, these leaders will plan and implement monthly outdoor activities and service projects with their ‘little ones.’
Traveling Outdoor Recreation is modeled after the successful examples of traveling reading vans and mobile health units that go to inner city communities to provide important services. As a pilot, this program will work with local retailers and partners to secure program activities that can be mobile such as rock climbing, yoga and hiking. The goal in the first year will be to work with 5 partnering schools to offer simple outdoor recreation opportunities and ideas for students and teachers throughout the year.
Why is there a national network of libraries that offer books and videos and not one for the outdoors? The Outdoor Action Pack will work with local citizens and community partners to develop a day pack which includes guides, maps, and gear to explore outdoor spaces in local areas. Youth and families who are interested in short outdoor experiences will be able to check out a pack at a local partnering organization.
Gear libraries are available in some communities across the country but are not always a viable solution for individuals. Building on the traditional model, Gear to Grow will develop a gear library with an innovative, grassroots twist. Using a time share model, people will be able to share and exchange equipment with one another – eliminating the ‘middle man’ organization that can often be a barrier.
Across many urban communities, vacant lots litter the landscape – drawing drug activity and vandalism. Throughout America, neighborhoods are reclaiming these properties by converting them into parks and other natural areas. Following this successful model, GreenSpace will work with students and community leaders to re-develop vacant properties into green spaces for the community to enjoy and recreate safely.
Social media is a powerful tool to engage new audiences, activate networks and share information. Outdoorbook.com will work with partners to develop social media campaigns that will promote accessible and affordable outdoor activities and provide direction for enthusiasts – especially those entry level individuals. The campaigns will promote mentor networks, outdoor activities and events and provide information about gear and other outdoor issues.
Outdoor clubs have been the backbone of the high school extra curriculum experience for decades – but few students have the opportunity to join an outdoor club. Youth Outdoor Outdoors will address this head on by helping to start pilot outdoor clubs in 2 local high schools. Leaders will secure equipment and outdoor activity guidance by partnering with local retailers and other community organizations. The goal will be to organize at least five outdoor events and two service projects a year for each club.
The outdoors can mean many different things to different people – and increasingly youth are choosing to experience nature in a variety of ways. On The Go will work with multiple organizations such as youth groups, places of worship, the artistic community, and even retirement homes to bring together a diverse group to discover new ways to participate in the outdoors – forming new relationships with nature and with each other based on various interests and experiences.
In today’s economy, our nation’s parks and outdoor programs are at risk of being completely shut down and cut-off. Many political leaders do not consider outdoor issues a priority and, as a result, important programs and projects are being underfunded or deleted from the budget entirely. Team Priority will organize community members to influence outdoor policies and raise awareness and support for outdoor programs by using a combination of social media and on the ground grassroots organizing.
This project will develop a multi-tiered tool kit that will empower youth as well as partner organizations to demonstrate the power of camping and other outdoor activities to Members of Congress and other officials. The first phase will include a post-card template that will be distributed to hundreds of camps – allowing youth to send a note to decision makers encouraging them to support outdoor youth programs. Media and Member outreach will be part of phase two – extending an invitation to a series of real camping opportunities.
In cities across the US, there is an innovative program model that closes down streets for community outdoor festivals and activities – car free. Walk Your Block aims to replicate this proven model in Dallas by working with local officials to close off a section of the city. The program will transform what is normally an urban street into an accessible place for people of all ages to enjoy recreation along with informative stations that provide information on outdoor opportunities and resources.
Families and multi-generational relationships are very important in the Latino culture and are often critical to reconnecting this population’s youth with nature. The Abuelitos Project will engage Latino youth in regular outdoor service projects – especially those focused on supporting elderly community members. To start, every two weeks young volunteers will devote several hours to help neighborhood ‘grandparents’ or Abuelitos clean their yard and plant a community garden.
Engagement and cultural relevance is critical for any community to connect its youth and the outdoors. In Alaska, connecting the outdoors to traditional cultures is an innovative way to bridge the nature divide. The Yaakw Yees project will carve 2 traditional canoes at the University of Alaska SE to immerse the community in Tlingit culture and reconnect the historical and modern day cultures. This pilot program will educate a broad audience on Alaska Native heritage and outdoor issues.
Young people as well as the broader community who live in underserved communities often do not have a sense of ownership over their parks and open spaces. The NYC Mentorship Program will create a ‘for youth-by youth’ effort to expose and educate local young people about their outdoor opportunities through outdoor activities and clean-up service projects. The ultimate goal will be to empower youth to envision a larger world, instill a sense of ownership and ultimately establish a stronger community connection to the land.