By Deidra McGee, US Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist
The announcement of the More Kids in the Woods (MKIW) challenge cost-share program highlights the multiple outcomes of many USDA Forest Service programs not only within the Agency, but across the Department and reaching to White House initiatives.
The Forest Service selected 21 MKIW projects from field units across the country that foster environmental awareness and stewardship among young people. The projects such as summer camps, outdoor labs, nature caching, wilderness expeditions and more will help kids make the connection between healthy forests, healthy communities and their own healthy lifestyles; while encouraging them to seek careers in conservation and resource management.
The initiative to engage and involve MKIW has numerous partners, cooperators, and an equal number of overlapping features and benefits to other initiatives across the country. The MKIW goals are echoed in efforts from the White House to the forests of Alabama. There the state has initialed Youth Taking Action, or YTA, aimed at curbing childhood obesity.
“Blending physical activity with conservation and environmental ideas will be a great venue for students to not only enjoy the great outdoors, but develop an ownership in the environment for future generations of people, plants, and critters!” Sallie Chastain; Coordinator, Community Education for Talladega (Alabama) County Schools.
This effort, mirroring First Lady Michelle Obama’s own focus, capitalizes not only on MKIW projects, but incorporates other resources like lessons and teacher materials from the Project Learning Tree curriculum (PLT). Local state officials agree that these benefits multiply the effectiveness of related programs.
“The Project Learning Tree mission is to use the forest as a "window" on the world to increase students' understanding of our environment; stimulate students' critical and creative thinking; develop students' ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues; and instill in students the commitment to take responsible action on behalf of the environment.” Chris Erwin; Director of Education and Outreach, Alabama Forestry Association
This is the fourth year the Forest Service has matched funds and in-kind contributions from partners for “More Kids in the Woods”. Partners include local, state, and federal agencies and American Indian tribes. Project activities include summer camps, after-school programs, and wilderness expeditions. The challenge-cost share will serve more than 15,000 children throughout the nation, including under-served and urban youth.
For more information on this year’s 21 MKIW projects, go to http://tinyurl.com/2vgkq3u.