Through meaningful engagement with nature, ALL children and youth will:
- Learn and achieve at their fullest potential
- Attain optimal health
- Develop an ethic of environmental stewardship
Objectives & Strategies to Achieve Them
Objective 1: Develop opportunities for all children and youth to safely and accessibly engage in free play, exploration and recreation activities that connect them to nature.
- Develop and expand Skyliners Lodge into a “Discovery Center” for increased Children’s Forest program use.
- Identify and develop seasonally appropriate and accessible facilities and places that support the Inclusion Strategy within the Deschutes Children’s Forest Mission.
- Design places in parks and neighborhoods that encourage free exploration and unstructured recreational play.
- Embed outdoor places with information and activities that children and families can do on their own to learn how to respect and care for the natural world and the value of stewardship.
- Provide web-based and printed materials that direct children and families to parks, trails, and programs where children can connect with nature.
- Deliver and facilitate recreation programs centered in the Deschutes Children’s Forest boundaries that encourage engagement with the outdoors.
- Design curriculum within child/youth recreation programs to have nature-based components.
- Identify other “walled” classroom locations within the Deschutes Children’s Forest.
- Identify alpine and desert locations for additional Deschutes Children’s Forest Partner use.
Objective 2: Provide all youth first-hand connections with nature by providing meaningful, inspirational, and interdisciplinary education programs.
- Launch “A Forest for Every Classroom” (FFEC) that provides workshops and a summer institute for early elementary teachers to learn how to instill in their students an understanding and appreciation for the public lands adjacent to their communities.
- Provide rigorous environmental education and related courses and activities for students and teachers.
- Develop a “Resource Co-op” as a cost-effective way to acquire, store, and utilize equipment and supplies for outdoor use.
- Serve as a resource for teacher professional development and core teaching curriculums in public, private, and home schools.
- Deliver and facilitate multi-age and multi-disciplinary education programs (e.g. science, language arts, social studies, math, and arts) within a broad range of outdoor learning experiences.
- Provide nature-based educational programs that are in alignment with the learning strands of the Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan and the Common Core State Standards of Education.
- Provide projects and programs that include STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) educational objectives.
Objective 3: Improve health outcomes in youth by providing opportunities that lead to increased physical activity outdoors.
- Provide a referral system, in partnership with the medical community, to connect children and youth at risk of obesity with Deschutes Children’s Forest programs, activities, and places (“Rx: 2Thrive – Nature Tracks”).
- Bring nature (and Deschutes Children’s Forest programs and activities) close to home through “NatureHoods.”
- Develop a research partnership with higher education, the medical community, and coalition stakeholders.
- Create opportunities and programs that focus on the value of nature as a venue for wellness.
- Develop media to promote the benefits of outdoor play in nature as a powerful competitor to recreational screen time.
- Develop media and print materials that address parental concerns of the risks of allowing children to play outdoors.
- Establish an institute for research specific to “Nature-Deficit Disorder.”
- Establish data collection and analysis methods for benefits/outcomes of using Deschutes Children’s Forest sites to provide research for future decision making and media use.
Objective 4: Develop programs that foster leadership skills in youth, promote a sense of connection and stewardship for public lands, and provide potential environmental and natural resource career paths.
- Develop an intern program for students who want to work in the National Forest.
- Teach conservation and stewardship skills in education and recreation programs.
- Provide youth programming with relevant and meaningful opportunities to participate in hands-on community stewardship projects throughout Central Oregon.
- Establish training programs that teach and demonstrate teaching skills to peers and to adults.
- Empower youth to be teachers to their peers, the community, and the visiting public.
- Develop community audiences and venues for youth to present their community project work throughout Central Oregon.
- Develop a pathway of choice for Deschutes Children’s Forest participants that links them directly to project partners, community leaders, higher education, and environmental and natural resource career choices (e.g. fish biologist, forester, etc.).
Outputs and Milestones
- At least 10,000 students will participate in Deschutes Children’s Forest programming by December 2013, and 15,000 students will participate annually by December 2014.
- At least 300 teachers will participate in Deschutes Children’s Forest programming through teacher trainings, field trips, classroom presentations, or related activities by December 2013.
- Skyliners Lodge will be transformed into the Deschutes Children’s Forest “Discovery Center” (EDCFDC) and utilized at least 50% of the available school days during the 2012-13 school year.
- The number of Deschutes Children’s Forest sites identified in Central Oregon will increase from 20 to 40 by June 2013.
- The Deschutes Children’s Forest will provide nature-based educational programs that are aligned with the learning strands of the Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan and the Common Core State Standards of Education.
- 25% of referrals coming through Rx: 2Thrive’s Nature Tracks will remain involved with Deschutes Children’s Forest programming or report an increase in active outdoor play for at least one year.
- Childhood obesity rates in Deschutes County will be reduced by 5% by 2015.
- At least 1 Naturehood will be developed by December 2012, 3 NatureHoods by December 2013, and 10 NatureHoods by 2015.
- At least 3 publications examining the linkages between exposure to nature and health outcomes will be published and distributed to national journals by 2016.
- At least 100 students per year will act as teachers as they share their Deschutes Children’s Forest experiences with the wider community at a regional student summit.
Please note: We fully recognize that what is most important in our work is outcomes and results-based accountability. The outputs above are largely milestones towards our ultimate goal of changes in attitudes and behavior such that youth in Central Oregon have a healthier lifestyle due to the system of supports that gets them outdoors and into the forest. A priority during our first few years will be to establish a series of assessment and evaluation tools that will allow us to better track progress toward this goal.
In addition to the raw number of DCF sites, over the next 12 months we will develop criteria to allow us to assess how accessible DCF sites are and the extent to which we are able to locate and/or create new sites in underserved areas (e.g. Redmond).