“ Every child in Utah should have the opportunity to visit a national park, sit beneath a tree that is at least 100 years old, boat a river, climb a mountain, cook dinner over a campfire, go fishing, hike a trail, plant a native flower, shrub or tree, listen to a spring bird or chorus of frogs, gaze at the stars, and follow animal tracks in the snow.”
– H.C.R. 7, 2011 General Session
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed a concurrent resolution that “expressed support for increased participation by children in outdoor activities.” Coined the “No Child Left Inside” bill, this acknowledgement of nature’s influence in the healthy development of children is one local example of a nationwide effort to get young people outside.
“It is heartening to see our lawmakers recognize the importance nature has in a healthy childhood,” says Heidi Nedreberg, Marketing & Outreach Manager for the Conservancy’s Utah Chapter. “At the Conservancy, we believe it’s crucial to help Utah’s next generation connect with nature, and learn to appreciate and respect our state’s unique lands, waters and wildlife.”
A New Partnership
That’s why Nedreberg and her colleagues are excited to announce a major expansion for one of the Conservancy’s most successful youth education programs. This fall, through a new partnership, the Conservancy will join with the Utah State University Botanical Center to enhance its award-winning Wings & Water Wetlands Education program at the Great Salt Lake.
“We have long admired the Conservancy’s work to get kids out into the wetlands,” says David Anderson, Director of the USU Botanical Center. “This groundbreaking partnership will fuse together the energy of two successful education programs to bring nature to even more kids than we could reach alone.”
The Wings & Water Wetlands Education Program
First established by the Conservancy in 2005, the Wings & Water program has reached more than 8,000 4th grade students to date. The program takes students on a guided field trip to the Conservancy’s visitor center at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, and includes free print and digital activities and teaching materials to help students learn targeted lessons about the wetlands ecosystem.
For Nedreberg, however, the true value of the program extends far beyond the science curriculum. “Out here, kids get a chance to see, smell, touch, and even taste nature,” she says. “Many of them have very little experience with that, and seeing them light up when they see birds fly over, hear western chorus frogs croak, or hold a blade of salt grass between their fingers is magical.”
Moving Beyond Success
Now, thanks to the new partnership, even more students will experience this magic. The expanded program is made possible by a generous grant from Kennecott Utah Copper. “We are pleased to partner with The Nature Conservancy on the Wings & Water Program,” said Clayton Walker, Chief Operating Officer with Rio Tinto Kennecott Utah Copper. “It’s important to educate our youth about the Great Salt Lake and biodiversity. As they become more educated about the Great Salt Lake, they will better understand the need to conserve this great resource.”
Due to launch this fall, the partnership between the Conservancy and the USU Botanical Center will create a more robust wetlands education program that aims to reach 70% more 4th graders by 2012. It will also encompass more school districts and expand programming to other grade levels.
“More parents, lawmakers, and teachers are starting to see nature as a critical component of childhood development,” says Nedreberg. “With their support, this partnership will provide a safe and abundant place for more kids to explore, learn, and grow. Together, we can reconnect the next generation with the natural world that supports us all.”