Outings leader takes her message to Capitol Hill during Great Outdoors America week - get kids outdoors!
I prefer wilderness to cities, tall mountains to tall buildings, wide open spaces to the crowded narrow streets and rugged hiking trails to cement sidewalks. I’m a child at heart who loves exploring outdoors, and believes all kids deserve the chance to experience nature.
As an outdoor leader I have witnessed the benefits of connecting youth with the outdoors. I’ve watched a six year old gently grab an ant off her shirt and put it in the grass because she understood it is a living thing. I’ve worked in a community garden alongside a seven year old who explained surface runoff to me. I’ve witnessed a sixteen year old develop from being uncooperative and disruptive to leading outdoor environmental education lessons with his peers.
These are just a few experiences which demonstrate the importance of connecting youth with the outdoors - increased creativity, interpersonal skills, environmental literacy, general health and well being, sense of curiosity - the list goes on and on. One of the most important benefits is that when we connect the youth to nature, they learn to care about it and ultimately will fight to protect it.
My passion is working directly with youth in the outdoors, leading trips and teaching about the natural world. But I’ve come to understand that it is only one way of supporting youth getting outside. We as outdoor leaders have experienced first-hand the benefits of connecting youth with nature, and that unique perspective can be used as a powerful tool. We bear a responsibility to not only the kids we educate, but to inform others about the powerful impact we can make by getting youth outside.
That is why next week I am trading in my hiking boots for heels. I will join a group of Sierra Club delegates from across the country to meet with some of our nation’s leaders in an attempt to win their support of legislation developed to facilitate getting youth outdoors and increasing access to environmental education. It’s part of Great Outdoors America week during which we will hit the Hill to advocate for youth outdoors.
I’ve never had a meeting on the Hill or sat in a briefing with administration officials, but I understand this is another way to support youth getting outside. I will do my best to grab the attention of leaders to make them see what I see each time I take youth outdoors.
Be sure to follow us during the week as we work to win the support of leadership to get kids outdoors.
--Danielle Tinker, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Great Outdoors America Week Delegate AND Washington, DC Inner City Outings leader