Every person has a right to live in a healthy community, where there are opportunities to learn, grow, and thrive. In reality, vast disparities exist across communities in access and outcomes related to health, education, and the environment. Even where there should be a level playing field or common ground —like in the outdoors—these disparities exist. The benefits that accrue from positive, meaningful experiences in the outdoors are highly dependent on one’s zip code, race, and financial resources. In an effort to overcome these barriers, New Hampshire Environmental Educators offers the NHEE'd to Get Outside grant each year. This grant is provided to NH schools or 501(c)3 non-profit organizations to provide students hands-on, experiential, outdoor field trip opportunities. These educational field trips can be to a variety of locations (e.g., nature center, museum, state park, conservation area) and must include an outdoor, experiential component. The field trip does not have to be science focused; since environmental education is interdisciplinary by nature, we encourage trips that engage the environment in creative ways through various subjects.
Communities thrive when people have opportunities for meaningful experiences outdoors. The NHEE'd to Get Outside grant has helped fund a variety of field trips. One example is the Elm Street Middle School in Nashua who used these funds to partner with River Classroom®. This is a canoe-based exploration that teaches young people about our rivers, their history and ecology, and the capacity of humans to impact the health of our waterways. Seventh grade teacher Patty Davidson explained that “On River Classroom day, each class will first receive basic paddling and safety instruction on the banks of the river. Participants spend half of the day canoeing on the river while conducting wildlife field studies and joining in geology and history discussions led by River Classroom guides. The students are challenged to use their observation skills on the river and make connections with their own lifestyles, including the continuing effects of non-point source pollution generated by elements such as lawn care, road run-off, pet waste, and recreational use. Students spend the other half of the day along the river banks completing an Aquatic Insect Investigation with River Classroom staff, using specialized equipment to capture, observe, identify, and release macro-invertebrates such as various insect larvae, fish, and crayfish. They will use their data to determine the water quality and general health of the river ecosystem.” Experiences like these build stronger connections. And when we are more connected to each other, to our communities, and to the world around us, we all benefit.
In order to create a future where everyone has positive experiences outdoors and shares the joy, health, growth, and sense of community that come with it, New Hampshire Environmental Educators is a proud partner of Rethink Outside. Rethink Outside is a campaign to challenge and transform prevailing notions around time spent in nature and lift up the benefits of time spent outdoors as a basic human right. Rethink Outside advances a new, shared narrative to move the vital work of connecting people with the outdoors from a nicety to an absolute necessity. Using this narrative as a tool, we can elevate the priority and urgency of our work, bring new resources to the field, and catalyze a cross-sector movement for equitable access to the outdoors and its many benefits.
Join us and take action now at rethinkoutside.org. Communication resources, storytelling tools, and campaign-branded materials and templates are available to support your participation as we tell a new story, together. Rethink Outside is just the beginning of a new social movement to bring the promise of healthy communities to all.