In an effort to build a stronger connection to public lands, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in northwest Washington State brought 50 fourth-graders from Enumclaw, Washington, outdoors for a snowshoe trek.
The snowshoe trek is a part of a larger Every Kid in a Park program that to date has brought over 600 students to their local forest. During classroom instruction before the trek, students inspected native weasel pelts, learned about symbiotic relationships such as those between algae and fungi, and studied tracks of native animals that might be found along their journey. While out in the forest, students found baby snowshoe hare tracks, weasel tracks, squirrel tracks and even attempted to track the elusive Bigfoot before deciding that, most likely, Bigfoot’s tracks were made by visitors on snowshoes.
This May and June, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will invite over 400 fourth-grade students out to uncover benthic invertebrates in streams, learn about watershed health and play games that demonstrate the salmon lifecycle. The first spring event is scheduled for May 31 at the Silver Spring campground in Snoqualmie Pass with 90 fourth graders.
Now, let’s travel about 500 miles south of Snoqualmie Pass, where the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest partnered with several organizations to bring 140 young people from underserved communities to Mt. Ashland Ski Area. For some, this is an opportunity to experience and connect with the wintery outdoors in a safe learning environment for the first time. Chaperones and volunteers learned how to ski, snowboard and snowshoe. This Winter Wellness day included two-hour lessons donated by professional instructors as well as winter gear provided to all who needed it. Young people also got the opportunity to check out cougar and black bear skulls, as well as animal pelts, at a hands-on table staffed by Forest Service employees.
When forests partner with local schools and nonprofits to get young people onto public lands it makes kids excited about them and helps grow a new generation of forest stewards.