OSPREY, (March 10, 2017) Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast is thrilled to announce the launch of its newest initiative, Youth in Nature. The Youth in Nature initiative will engage local at-risk youth in a variety of nature experiences. The overarching goal is to provide at-risk youth with ‘WOW!’ moments in nature, offering experiences in our region’s spectacular parks and preserves and hopefully catching sight of some of nature’s most spectacular creatures. Conservation Foundation piloted the program last June, with a small number of Sarasota youth, taking them kayaking on the Intracoastal Waterway and exploring in a state park. For many, it was the first time they had ever been on-the-water or immersed in nature.
Conservation Foundation is committed to ensuring that youth education and engagement is central to its mission. A recent Nature Conservancy study found that American youth spend more time indoors than in nature; 88% spend time online daily and fewer than 40% spend time outdoors even on a weekly basis. The focus of the Youth in Nature initiative is to create incredible nature experiences that will provide life-long memories, build self-esteem, and instill a love for the natural world. The program emphasizes discovery, active nature-based activities, playing nature-based games, and providing experiences that do not take place before an electronic screen.
The success of the pilot program attracted a $65,000 grant from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation. “Children need to get their hands dirty in nature to appreciate the environment. The Youth in Nature program gives at-risk youth the opportunity to explore and gain perspective,” notes Teri A Hansen, Barancik Foundation President, and CEO. The Robert R. Harlan and Susan H. Lowy Harlan Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County also invested in the initiative.
A growing body of research indicates that children experience reduced stress levels and improved social skills as a result of greater activity in nature. Benefits also include increased concentration, greater attention capacities, and higher academic performance.
Conservation Foundation seeks volunteers to assist in the planning and implementation of program activity. To learn more, visit www.conservationfoundation.com/youth. Follow Youth in Nature on Instagram and Facebook too.
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast saves land, forever, protecting those special natural lands that make this region extraordinary. Working with landowners, businesses, and government, Conservation Foundation protects the character and natural integrity of the bays, beaches, barrier islands and their watersheds on Florida’s Gulf Coast. A nationally accredited land trust, the Foundation purchases natural areas, holds land conservation agreements and educates for responsible land and water stewardship in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee Counties. Learn more at www.conservationfoundation.com.