Outdoor Insider Fall 2015 - Page 13

Jackie Ostfeld, Co-Founder and Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids; and Sierra Club Nearby Nature Director Nothing fills my heart with more joy than watching a child discover nature for the first time. In my early 20s, I spent my days teaching kids in and about the great outdoors. I touched the lives of thousands of children--or, if I’m being honest--they touched me. It was during my years as an environmental educator that I first realized how few children had opportunities to enjoy the natural world. While there, in the foothills of the southern Sierras, I decided I wanted to address this widespread disconnect from nature at the national level. When I came to the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C., I ran across many like-minded colleagues who were all working in their own ways to connect children with nature. After several years of working independently, we realized our voices would be stronger if we came together around a shared agenda to get kids outdoors. In early 2010, several national organizations--including the Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, REI, Sierra Club, and the YMCA of the USA--began collaborating on this important issue. Our first action as a group was to call on First Lady Michelle Obama to establish an outdoors component to her recently unveiled Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity. With the announcement of Let’s Move! Outside and some early success under our belt, we decided to officially launch the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), open our doors to new members, and grow our advocacy on issues to connect children, youth, and families with the outdoors. OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. Our members are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities, and the economy of the future depend on people having a personal, direct, and lifelong relationship with nature and the outdoors. Although families have the leading role in connecting children with the outdoors, OAK believes that other decision-makers also need to ensure that children, youth, and families have the access, opportunities, skills, and encouragement to connect with the great outdoors. OAK seeks to raise awareness and activate leaders and decision-makers at the grassroots, local, state, regional, and federal levels to support change that expands and strengthens education, community health and wellness, and environmental stewardship opportunities for children and youth across America. OAK is an active voice for the movement, focused on strategic and overall change, and committed to engaging, educating, and influencing leaders in various sectors--including conservation, recreation, health, education, defense and military readiness, business, built environment, and transportation. Since our initial launch, we have brought on new and diverse steering committee member organizations such as the American Heart Association, the North Face, and the Wilderness Society. OAK’s membership continues to grow and recently surpassed 80 members, including AORE, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Outdoor Afro, and the National Military Family Association. For more about OAK, including a complete list of members and a membership application, please visit our website: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org. aore.org | nationaloffice@aore.org 13