5 Things We Can Learn from Our Teen Outdoor Leaders
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It’s dusk at Tanadoona and a group of twenty-one 12 to 17 year-olds gather outside, bundled in winter-wear and masks. They chat excitedly about their weeks, their favorite shows, and the nature lesson for the evening. These youth are Camp Fire’s Fall 2020 Teen Outdoor Leaders (TOLs), a driven bunch set out to make their mark on the world and care for the environment.
Every other Tuesday evening the TOLs meet to develop leadership skills, make new friends, and participate in outdoor activities. Some see themselves in a green career one day, and many just love getting outside. Either way, they are exploring their nature curiosities in their own unique way—they helped design the season’s curriculum after all!
For one TOL, Isabella, the best part is “learning more about nature and the world, the fun activities, and seeing my friends amid COVID-19.”
Though events and camps at Tanadoonalooked different in 2020, we are proud to continue offering COVID-safe programs like Teen Outdoor Leaders. Between the stress of a pandemic, increased screen time, and decreased social time, being in nature is more important than ever.
“Nature has always been important to me, but during this year it has become especially critical to my well-being,” says Savanna, 13.
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We sat down with Cash, an eighth grader on his second season of TOL, to hear more how nature education inspires youth. Our TOLs are wise beyond their years—here are five takeaways:
1. Nature is the perfect remedy for too much screen time.
Even before the pandemic, youth were spending 90% of their time indoors with ample tech time. But with virtual schooling this year, many students are clocking full days in front of a laptop. “TOL is a time when I can actually get off the screen. I’m a full e-learner, with 4-5 hours on the screen daily…it’s really nice to have that break away from technology,” Cash explains.
2. You can make a difference, no matter your age.
“I want to become a marine biologist when I’m older, so I think all these nature lessons you’ve taught us have really helped me prepare for the future, especially since my future is most likely going to be in the outdoors. I really enjoy learning.”
But Cash knows he doesn’t have to wait to start making an impact. “We are the next generation to be leading the country and the world. Nature education inspires me to teach kids that are younger than me what is going on in our world and what they can do to help prevent a climate disaster from happening in the future.”
3. Showing up as a leader takes many forms.
Each session, the teenswork on developing their personal leadership style throughgames, personality assessments, and creative projects. When it comes to caring for nature, Cash leads through his writing.“I mainly take action through my blog, especially during COVID when I can’t go anywhere else. I write on positive environmental topics and what people can do to help the planet. Recently, I posted an article about Black Friday and Cyber Monday and their impact on the climate and the earth.” Check out Cash’s blog here.
4. Be open to learning more about yourself.
It’s important to leave space to grow, and TOL fosters just that. “I’ve learned how to be more vocal about everything. Before TOL, I was really quiet and never raised my hand in class. I feel like it has helped me gain more of that leadership skill and propelled me a little bit further.”
Cash also explains how community, like theone at TOL,cultivates new ideas and values. “I’ve learned that I love being outside more than I previously thought. Being in that community with a whole bunch of like-minded people opened a door to me that I really do like being outdoors and I enjoy being in nature.”
5. Nature is healing.
Most people can probably say they are feeling the effects of living in a pandemic, one way or another. But taking a moment to go outside and feel the sun on your face or focus on the sound of the birds can be a mini respite from other worries.“Being in nature for me provides a sense of calm and relief, especially now,” Cash tell us.“I’ve been kind of stressed about online schoolbecause there’s glitches all over the system. It’s really nice to get outside, calm down, take a breath in and restart. It’s really helped me.”
This yearis a reminder of nature’s restorative effects on our well-being, and we are committed to sharing this with youth through programs like Teen Outdoor Leaders. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to inspire the next generation andothers like Cash. First-time or increased gifts will be matched by the Minnesota Camp Fire Foundation.
Kids need nature. You make it possible. Donate now