PARKS, OUTDOOR RECREATION AND EXPERIENCES – Ohio has a rich history of providing outdoor experiences, recreational opportunities and nature education. State and local parks, nature centers and recreation centers provide close-to-home opportunities for children to experience nature. Traditional nature camps allow children to be immersed in the natural world for extended periods of time. Zoos and museums share with visitors a more intimate knowledge of nature and inspire further investigation. And, each year, youth organizations like Camp Fire, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, along with non-profit organizations like the YMCA, give hundreds of thousands of Ohio’s children the opportunity to experience the wonders of nature. Whether a few minutes in a half-acre of wildflowers or a week long camping experience in thousands of 13acres of unbroken forest, outdoor experiences are vital to children’s development. The following actions can enhance the ability of these organizations to bring children quality nature experiences:
Strategy #6: Encourage joint use agreements between schools, parks and recreation centers.
Schools, child care centers and after-school agencies are natural partners. Connecting teachers and students to local parks and other natural spaces has multiple benefits. Applying classroom environmental concepts in a natural setting enhances the educational experience. Children who experience natural places will be the environmental stewards of tomorrow, and encouraging children to experience the outdoors will ensure that children are exercising their bodies and their minds. Ohio’s local parks and recreation agencies can strengthen the relationship with their community schools to leverage public resources and provide enhanced education and health benefits to Ohio’s youth. The No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI), would expand environmental education curriculum in schools. NCLI encourages partnerships between schools and park agencies to provide students with field-based education opportunities. Passage of NCLI will give students and teachers an opportunity to increase their understanding of the natural world.