Project Get Outdoors
Outdoor recreation is declining among Minnesota children and families. Efforts are underway to try and reverse this trend. One of those efforts - led by Project Get Outdoors, Inc. - is working to implement a program that reconnects Minnesota children in grades K-8 to nature exploration and outdoor recreation utilizing our public lands. Using this appropriation, Project Get Outdoors, Inc. created 50 toolkits and five equipment trunks with supplies that encourage over 100 safe, after-school activities that get kids out in nature. Activities include insect collection, themed hikes, geo-caching, and fishing. These toolkits are available free of charge to interested communities in southern Minnesota by Project GO coordinators along with training for community volunteers on how to start and sustain their own unique programs.
OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS
Project GO has developed a toolkit to help local communities design, implement, evaluate, and sustain free after-school and summer programs that introduce children to nearby public lands and outdoor activities and skills they can enjoy at these sites.
Through funds from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, Project GO was able to assemble 50 Activity Backpacks and 32 Equipment Trunks for Project GO program leaders to use in their communities. Each program leader is issued a backpack to keep during their involvement with the Project GO program. The Activity Backpacks provide basic supplies to help leaders implement 100 or more different outdoor games, projects, and activities.
The Equipment Trunks focus on 16 different activities and are available for Project GO leaders to check out for free. These trunks are housed at Whitewater State Park for use in SE Minnesota and we anticipate the other set of 16 trunks will be housed out of Minneopa State Park for use by Project GO clubs in SW Minnesota.
At the time of this report, 14 backpacks have been issued. Equipment trunks are beginning to be checked out. Program leaders are excited to have these resources and so far, feedback has been very positive. The children are happy to have more diverse equipment and supplies to use while learning about the outdoors. We plan to evaluate the usefulness of these resources over the coming year via a program leader survey. One obstacle we are looking at is getting the equipment trunks to and from program sites that are farther from the storage site. We are hoping to develop a network of volunteer "runners" who would be reimbursed mileage for delivering and returning the equipment trunks when a GO site in a community such as Red Wing or Spring Grove desires to check out a trunk.
PROJECT RESULTS USE AND DISSEMINATION
The completed Activity Backpacks have already been issued to 14 sites. We will continue to help communities design Project GO programs that are unique as well as work with local staff at community organizations such as youth centers, school age child care programs, and other after school sites to introduce children in those programs to nature through our toolkit resources.
Since completing the assembly of the 50 Activity Backpacks and 32 Equipment Trunks, Project GO has formed a partnership with local public health and child care resource professionals to look at implementing our program into the larger child care centers that serve school age children during the after school hours. We are currently piloting this at a child care center in Caledonia and looking to work with two child care centers in Rochester. We will train the school age room staff at these centers to use our backpacks at least once a week. As an incentive for them to use the backpacks and journal their experiences, Project GO will provide a person to come out to their site no more than once a month to lead a hands-on nature activity using one of the Equipment Trunks. This new approach with child care centers will allow us to serve many more children. Project GO will be presenting at an upcoming Focus on the Child conference in Rochester, sharing this information with child care providers from across the southern region.
A number of colleges and college professors in SE Minnesota have expressed enthusiasm to connect their students to service learning, internship, and practicum experiences with Project GO. We have found that college students bring great enthusiasm to the program which the children really enjoy and in exchange Project GO is able to provide real world learning experiences for these students.
We are already looking to secure additional funds to purchase more backpacks, as we anticipate the first 50 will be issued within a year. The US Fish & Wildlife Service Winona District is eager to help us acquire another batch of backpacks.
$15,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Project Get Outdoors, Inc. to develop out of school programs connecting children to local nature experiences.
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".