Several vans pull in to Tanadoona and thirty or so students scramble out, chattering joyously. They start to disperse, taking in their new surroundings, eyes wide. One child asks a most pressing question: “Are there wolves here?” The afternoon unfolds into a nature hike and team-building games.
This was the students’ first field trip to Tanadoona and the beginning of a partnership between Camp Fire Minnesota, Ramsey County 4-H, and The Sanneh Foundation (TSF) that will run from December 2020 to August 2021. Now, several months into the program, the students have brushed up on compass reading, snowshoed, created mini wind turbines, and more.
4-H had recently partnered with TSF, when they heard about Camp Fire’s environmental education program with full scholarships available. It was a natural fit to add hands-on, outdoor experiences for their students at Tanadoona.
With more screen time due to the pandemic, it is especially difficult to get kids outside. However, for many students in urban areas, there are barriers to accessing nature in the first place. “Many families do not have way to go into the woods outside of an urban park,” explains Ofir Germanic, TSF’s Conway Recreation Center Director.
By partnering with 4-H and The Sanneh Foundation, we’re working together to address both of these challenges. Though it’s just the beginning, we’re already seeing how this collaboration has the right elements to spark change in our community:
1. Catalyzing growth through the outdoors.
“We are intentional to specifically partner with organizations working in the Twin Cities to uplift and support low income and/or BIPOC youth,” say Alexis M. Murillo, Camp Fire’s Education and Digital Programs Manager.
Programming doesn’t just take place Tanadoona either. Our naturalists travel to TSF’s site (Conway Recreation Center in St. Paul) every other lesson to ensure there are multiple opportunities for youth to participate in environmental learning. “Having Camp Fire and 4-H staff come to Conway with new activities is so impactful. The young people are always really excited and eager to try something new,” shares Bri Fisher, 4-H Extension Educator.
2. Collaborating to ensure bright futures for youth.
The work of three is better than one, right? Absolutely. Supporting each other, especially in today’s challenging times, is more important than ever. “With COVID we are limited with opportunities for the kids—having two partners that can provide other activities that we don’t is very valuable,” says Ofir.
Having a community-minded attitude is also important when working towards a shared goal. “We each have our strengths and can bring something to the table to meet the needs of young people,” says Bri.
3. Applying new leadership skills within their own communities.
We all are eager to see the youth build confidence—in outdoor exploration and in life in general. When young people are exposed to a new environment and activities they’ve never done before, it opens the door to what’s possible. It lights a spark within them.
The best part is that the knowledge and leadership skills the students are learning can be transferred back to their own neighborhoods and outdoors spaces.
“We can’t wait to see their appreciation for the outdoors grow. If they’re really inspired, they can bring it back to their communities. A big part of 4-H is helping young people see that they can be social change agents and create positive change. Maybe this will inspire a service project—there’s a lot of potential there,” says Jenny Cable, 4-H Extension Educator.
Up next in the lesson plan? Teambuilding in Nature: how plants and animals work together in an ecosystem. We, and our partners, look forward to seeing young people use their newfound skills to navigate life and become stewards of the natural world. Tag along on their next visit to Tanadoona by following us on Facebook and Instagram!
Learn more about our K-12 Environmental Education programs here.
A special thank you to Opus Foundation, 3M Foundation, Xcel Energy Foundation, MVEC for making our environmental education scholarships possible.