The Importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Outdoor Recreation, Conservation and Environmentalism

A recent post on the Blue Sky Founders Forum addresses the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion, what Blue Sky refers to as DEI, specifically in the areas of Outdoor Recreation, Conservation, and Environmental Advocacy. This is an interesting topic within these spaces, for many of us we do not immediately think of DEI when evaluating the effectiveness or success of an organization, department, or program. How does increasing DEI in these areas help? As long as the organization or program is achieving their goals within the realm of Outdoor Recreation, Conservation and Environmental they are successful, right? The following from Blue Sky shares 11 Lessons Learned about how working towards DEI is an important addition to achieving organizational mission, vision and values.

First, it is important to define several of these terms. Blue Sky defines Equity and Inclusion this way:

Equity – “an approach to ensuring all people have equal access to a resource.”

Inclusion – “Amplifying, valuing, and celebrating those identities, voices, values, and styles have been marginalized.”

The following are excerpts from “11 Lessons We’ve Learned as Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Consultants in the Outdoor, Conservation, and Environmental Sector” written by Ava Holliday and Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin.

  1. “Don’t conflate diversity with race. People tend to use “diversity” as code for “race” and “diverse” as code for “people of color,” perhaps because the word “diversity” is more comfortable. But diversity represents all facets of our identity—not only race—based on which we experience barriers to resources and opportunities.”
  2. Approach DEI work intersectionally. Organizations also silo race-related efforts off from other efforts such as gender equity and anti-harassment efforts, the creation of safe spaces for LGBTQ constituents, indigenous rights advocacy, or physically accessibility initiatives. The reality is that our identities are not siloed because we walk through the world at the intersection of multiple identities, including race, ethnicity, indigeneity, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, class, and more. More importantly, intersectionality cultivates a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity (where initiatives compete with each other for the same budget dollars).
  3. Go beyond numbers in measuring success. Organizations usually rely on race and gender diversity metrics to measure success. But focusing only on racial composition and creating a visually colorful workforce is not sustainable unless organizations are also paying attention to retention and fostering inclusive work cultures.
  4. Focus on equity rather than inclusion or diversity. Leading with equity—an approach to ensuring everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources—is the best way to create lasting change. Solely focusing on diversity and inclusion efforts does not necessarily require an interrogation of history and power dynamics, and therefore often falls flat.
  5. DEI work should be external and internal. DEI work isn’t just about outreach to grassroots organizations or recruiting at, for example, historically black colleges. These are just two externally facing efforts that belong to a much longer list. To create truly sustainable DEI efforts, internal strategies such as implicit bias training, inclusive benefits, mitigation of bias in evaluations and promotions, and more, should be equally prioritized.
  6. External work should be mutualistic. Many organizations invite grassroots organizations that work with (for example) communities of color to tell them how to become inclusive and culturally relevant. But often these relationships are parasitic rather than mutualistic. Borrowing the analogy of an understandably frustrated colleague, grassroots groups are not “insulin pumps” prepared to inject people of color into the environmental movement. To truly engage with (not merely “serve”) communities, simply ask prospective partners how you can support them.
  7. Invite all stakeholders to the table. You can’t say you’re working with specific communities if you’re doing so within a structure that does not invite their input or collaboration. Try to identify everyone who will be impacted by your project and invite them to engage in a meaningful way.
  8. Expand beyond the traditional framework of environmentalism. Environmentalism was born out of a particular time by a particular group of people (i.e. the usual suspects, such as John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey, and Aldo Leopold). The dominant narrative about environmental history has silenced the voices, buried the stories, and denied the experiences of many communities, including indigenous people, women, and people of color…The reality is that people have myriad connections to nature and ways of protecting land, all of which should be folded into the environmental movement if we are to be relevant to more people.
  9. Examine your implicit biases. Organizations cannot effectively tackle the biases that manifest in their practices, policies, protocols, and procedures without leaders and staff first looking in the mirror and examining their own individual biases. One way to do this is by taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which has become a common way to measure the biases we have with different identities. To grapple with implicit bias, we urge our partners to expose themselves to different perspectives and voices, attend workshops on implicit bias, and continue to engage in difficult conversations.
  10. Articulate your “why” and build a plan. DEI work can be lackluster and subject to fits and starts unless organizations are able to clearly articulate why DEI is important to their mission and build holistic plans addressing all of the ways they will add a DEI lens to their ongoing work. The lack of a clear plan can create pitfalls when, for example, a low budget year comes around and DEI goes on the chopping block because it’s not in a formalized initiative, or when you engage in dialogue with resistant constituents who insist DEI is “mission creep.”
  11. Meet people where they are. There are and will always be people who are either resistant or relatively new to the concepts surrounding DEI. And there are and will always be people who are wondering why we are still having the same conversation about sexism and racism 20-odd years later. Meeting people where they are helps navigate both resistance and DEI fatigue. This means using accessible language (such as implicit bias), celebrating small wins to help people feel successful, consistently soliciting feedback, and providing concrete checklists to help the work feel tangible.”

To read the whole post visit Blue Sky’s Blog Here. 


Forest Bathing: Reconnecting with Nature

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Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” originated in Japan as a way for individuals to reconnect with the natural world. Forest bathing has quickly expanded around the world due to the positive mental and physical health outcomes associated with the practice. The name may suggest that this practice involves swimming or washing in the forest, however, it has very little to do with hygiene. Rather, the term suggests a sort of cleanse from the stressors and responsibilities of everyday life by taking some time to be alone and quite in nature. Breathing in the sights and sounds of the surrounding natural environment.


“Cross between a hike and a meditation class.” An NPR journalist suggests that a forest bathing experience is like a “Cross between a hike and a meditation class, where the aim is to slow down and immerse yourself in the forest.”

Studies on forest bathing participants found that individuals who had spend time in nature had lower hostility scores and lower depression rates than those who had not spent any time in nature on a specific day. Individuals also had higher vitality scores or as the study suggests, were more lively.


The research on forest bathing continues to find both mental and physical health benefits associated with spending time outside and bolsters support for nature prescription programs, including the National Park Service’s Park Prescription Program and the ParkRx Program. These initiatives look to encourage doctors to prescribe time outdoors as a valid “medication” for many health issues including, depression, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Listen to the full NPR radio story Here.

The World’s First Fully Accessible Water Park Opened This Summer in San Antonio

The National Recreation Foundation looks to enhance the quality of life of economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged youth, those we often describe as being “at-risk”, through investing in recreation programs focused on these populations. Often our concentration and efforts are directed towards the economically disadvantaged group. The foundation is in a position to provide funding to different organizations, funding support is a logical way to have an impact on financially disadvantaged youth. However, individuals with physical and mental disabilities or impairments are often some of the most marginalized in our communities and are often times overlooked. In 2016, 7.2% of the roughly 46 million children aged 6-17 had a disability. While this doesn’t initially sound like a large percentage, 3,362,400 children seems significant. Recreation opportunities for these populations have been historically few and far between and if  offered can be fairly expensive for the participant and their families.

The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation in San Antonio, Texas is actively working to change that and in the process offer some new ideas for how to program for these populations. Gordon and Maggie Hartman, opened Morgan’s Wonderland in 2010. This park is named after their daughter, Morgan, who lives with physical and cognitive impairments. This theme park, which cost $34 million to construct, contains rides, playgrounds, and gardens all of which are completely accessible for individuals with disabilities to enjoy.MW_Official_logo

Gordon Hartman says, “Morgan’s Wonderland is just like any other theme park except for the added benefit of a culture and environment that assures 100 percent enjoyment by everyone who enters.  Unfortunately, countless children and adults with special needs do not have access to facilities that can help them fully enjoy outdoor recreation.  We truly believe Morgan’s Wonderland is beginning to change that.”

Morgan's Wonderland

The changes continue this summer with the introduction a new waterpark, called Morgan’s Inspiration Island. The park contains several splash pad areas with different components and themes, a river boat ride, and other water features. Every feature in the park is completely accessible, even for those who require the assistance of a wheel chair. The park offers specially designed wheelchairs that participants may use during their time in the park so as not to cause costly damages to personal devices.

Morgans Wonderland

The best part of this park is that admission is free for those with special needs. Take some time to look through the photos on the park’s website as well as in this news release. The looks on these children’s faces speak for themselves. What an incredible organization doing great things for a deserving population.

Coaching Female Athletes

This article was first published in Athletic Management Magazine in January of 2016 and highlights the Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program (YAAPP) organized  through Family Crisis Services based in Portland, ME which the NRF has previously supported. This article provides thought provoking insights on how to positively coach, mentor and develop young female athletes to be not only successful on the sports field but also to be strong and confident young women in other aspects of life. Information on this topic proves to to be important with increasing self-confidence and social-comparison issues among youth, stemming from the media and other social interaction. While it is a hope that home may be a safe place for young people, a fact is that sometimes it is not. As a programmers it is important to make sure that our programs offer safe and non-toxic environments for youth to be themselves, build confidence, and have positive interactions with others.

By Todd Livingston

“Todd Livingston is the 6-12 Athletic Administrator for the South Portland School Department in South Portland, ME.  He is in his 13th year as an athletic administrator after teaching physical education/health and coaching several sports for 11 years.”

“South Portland High School has a longstanding relationship with the organization Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program (YAAPP) and the many programs they offer that enable youth to make decisions within their relationships that are safe, healthy and informed.  In the fall of 2012 YAAPP staffer Carlin Whitehouse pitched the program “Coaching Boys Into Men” (CBIM) to the administrative team at South Portland High School.  Upon administrative approval to implement the program, it was presented to the varsity football, boys’ soccer, baseball and boys’ basketball coaches.  During the 2012-13 season, varsity boys’ basketball coach Phil Conley fully embraced serving as the pilot program for implementing “Coaching Boys Into Men” at South Portland High School.  The success of using the program with his team played a key role in developing the team chemistry that led the Red Riots to a birth in the state championship game.

In February 2013 there was an article published in the Portland Press Herald ( written by columnist Bill Nemitz highlighting the success of the program Coach Conley had piloted and shortly thereafter, Carlin Whitehouse secured funding for the creation of a video ( that successfully highlighted the program as well.  In the seasons to follow each male sport program at South Portland High School implemented the “Coaching Boys Into Men” curriculum.

Shortly after the Portland Press Herald article was published we received several congratulatory correspondences about the great work we were doing with our male athletes, but one correspondence in particular, from a South Portland parent, got my attention.  The correspondence started by stating; “Congratulations on this morning’s article, but most of all, congratulations on being brave enough to do the pilot testing for the Boys Into Men project.  Hooray!  Please expand the project to all the teams and adapt if for the girls.”  This email prompted discussions regarding the creation of a similar program that could be created and offered for our female student-athletes.

The YAAPP staff fully embraced the feedback and began working on a curriculum for the development of a program they initially entitled “Coaching Girls into Women” (CGIW).  In October of 2013, Sarah Gordon from YAAPP contacted me about piloting the program with our female teams.  Knowing the success we had experienced with CBIM we began to make plans to pilot CGIW and piloted the program with our varsity and junior varsity girls’ basketball, girls’ indoor track and girls’ tennis teams during the 2013-14 school year.   The CGIW curriculum was fine tuned through a focus group of twelve young women who participated in the pilot program and YAAPP then published the Coaching Female Athletes curriculum in 2014.

The Coaching Female Athletes (CFA) curriculum aims to educate, offer new views, model healthy and respectful behavior, and promote active bystander intervention.  It is a prevention program for athletic coaches to inspire and empower young women to grow into leaders and role models in today’s society by experiencing equality and safety in their lives, and supporting each other on and off the field.  You can find more information about the program by visiting the YAAPP website at  According to YAAPP Youth Advocate Sarah Gordon; “I wrote CFA in response to Athletic Directors and coaches who continued to ask us for a program similar to CBIM for females.  So we created just that – a way to reach females around tough topics.  The curriculum focuses on respect, support and leadership”.  According to a December 3, 2014 press releases, YAAPP’s CFA program has received national interest.  From Hawaii to Illinois, organizations are requesting CFA to educate female athletes on issues of self-esteem, healthy relationships, and female competition.

Each August, I coordinate with the YAAPP staff to offer training for our coaches around the CFA and CBIM programs.  At this point in time, this is a refresher for most of our coaches, but also provides a comprehensive training for those coaches that are new to the program/s.  I’m sure most coaches out there who read this article will think, “This is just one more thing added to my already busy coaching responsibilities”.  Although our coaches voluntarily participate in these programs they have all fully embraced implementing them with their teams and programs because they have observed the great benefits they provide and offer our student-athletes.  After the trainings, our coaches work with the YAAPP staff as needed throughout their season while they implement the program.  The YAAPP staff is great about sending weekly reminders to our coaches regarding the topic of the week and some helpful hints regarding the conversations they will have with their team members.

Each of our coaches is provided with a Coaching Female Athletes tool kit.  The toolkit contains informational cards about the program, the coaches’ playbook, playbook definitions and pre and post program surveys.  The playbook includes definitions that apply to each of the twelve discussion topics, along with facts and information about the topics, and helpful statistics that can be used to guide the discussions.  Included in the playbook are the twelve-week discussion cards that provide coaches with the tools to lead discussion with their female student-athletes regarding challenging gender stereotypes, treating one another with respect on and off the court, and pursuing female leadership roles.  The cards provide objectives for each lesson, tips/tactics on how to talk with the athletes, information/examples of how to be a positive active bystander, and helpful positive wrap up quotes to conclude each conversation.  

Our coaches typically pick one day each week that they will devote fifteen to twenty minutes to the CFA discussions and most choose a day each week that doesn’t fall on game day.  The CFA discussions are built into the practice plan for the day and the girls know that they are to arrive 30 minute early on these days.

The Coaches Playbook provides the coach with the education around the following twelve topics:

Week #1: Program Preview

Week #2: Gender Stereotypes

Week #3: Women Sexualized in the Media

Week #4: Body Image

Week #5: Bystander intervention

Week #6: Female Competition

Week #7: Digital Dating

Week #8: Dating Abuse

Week #9: Victim Blaming

Week #10: Female Leadership

Week #11: Working Collaboratively

Week #12: Season Wrap Up

The playbook includes definitions for the following: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body image, bulimia nervosa, bystander, bystander options (distraction, group intervention, checking in, humor, find help), consent, dating abuse/violence, jealousy, leadership, LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, allies), media, sexual assault, stalking, and victim blaming.


Here are examples from the coach cards for the first two weeks of the program.



  • Understand the team expectations for the upcoming season.
  • Acquire knowledge of CFA.
  • Collaborate with each other on team rules for the CFA series.


  • As a team, our goals this season are bigger than on the court/field.  We are going to support each other, women athletes, and women everywhere.
  • As a team we will respect each other on and off the court/field.  As athletes, people will watch you, and many look up to you.  How you act and treat others is very important.
  • Since we will be talking about issue that go beyond the court/field, we will have some new rules to follow this season.
  • Some of these rules, including confidentially, are included for the safety of your teammates.
  • What does respect mean to you?  How can we shoe respect to our teammates?  How can we show respect to other women?


  • Be respectful
  • No Judging
  • Confidentiality
  • Keep a Positive Attitide
  • Listen to Everyone
  • Drama Free Zone
  • ______________________________________
  • ______________________________________
  • ______________________________________


Discuss group rules with the team.  Make sure everyone understands the importance of the rules, as they will be repeated at the beginning of every CFA session.  Have the team come up with additional rules that apply specifically to your team.  This will allow them to take ownership over the program and have a voice.


“Respect your efforts, respect yourself.  Self-respect leads to self-discipline.  When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” – Clint Eastwood



  • Create opportunities to challenge gender stereotypes critically.
  • Understand societal pressures against women and girls.


  • How many of us have been told to act like a lady, be more lady like?
  • What does a stereotypical lady look like, wear, eat?  What does a stereotypical lady do for fun or for work?
  • These stereotypes create a small narrow box of who woman are supposed to be.  Then, we as a team, school, community, have created consequences for people who don’t fit in that narrow box.
  • What are some names we’ve been called by not fitting into these stereotypes?  Are there names specific to female athletes?
  • Personally, how mnay of you have called someone else fat, ugly, bitch, slut, whore, or any other name that might make someone feel badly about themselves.  How did you feel when it was said?
  • Now, how many of us have ever used those words against another woman, maybe even someone on this team?
  • How can we expect others to respect us as female athletes?
  • How can we show support for each other?


Remind the athletes that this is a stereotype, not an ideal, not a reality.  This is what comes to mind when we hear the word lady in our society.  Make sure that there is no judging.  It is perfectly fine to be any or none of these things, but it is impossible to be all.   (Example: sexy, but innocent, fit, but not athletic, etc.)


“Once you label me, you negate me.” – Soren Kierkgaard, philosopher

All of our sports programs hold “Meet the Riots” nights where the coaches have an opportunity to meet with the parents of their student-athletes.  This is an opportunity for our coaches to share information about their program and to introduce the members of each team within their program.  We also take advantage of this opportunity to share an information letter from YAAPP regarding the Coaching Female Athletes program and curriculum.  The letter shares some of the topics that will be discussed and informs the parents that the Red Riots coaching staff has received training relative to the program and will have ongoing support from YAAPP advocates and from our high school social workers.  It also encourages parents to ask their child about the discussions and to keep the conversation going at home.

As you might expect, our coaches have found the first few weekly discussions to be mostly coach driven.  However, once the weekly discussion have become an established part of the practice routine and the girls feel more comfortable with the topics and their teammates we have found that the discussion have been robust and very productive.  Most of our coaches have also found it helpful to connect each weekly discussion with something that has recently occurred and received national media attention.  This certainly allows the student-athletes to relate what they are learning about to real life situations.  There is no question that the implementation of this program has benefitted our student-athletes and coaches.

Here are some quotes from our coaches regarding CFA:

  • “I believe the students have a better understanding of the importance of treating others with respect”
  • “It has given us an opportunity to talk in an open forum about some of the issues that are facing young women in general and to really focus on some of the issues in female athletics. We have discussed some stereotypes, body image and how to handle relationships both good and bad. It has made us more open with each other, more trusting and built stronger relationships between players and between players and coaches. We have had some good laughs and some serious conversations and hopefully this program will make a positive impact on the girls”
  • “I think that the girls are more open with each other. I think they are more likely to take a stand and speak up. They have developed some ideas about what they believe in and are more willing to share some of those ideas”
  • “It is a good start at awareness of self, awareness of teammates, and awareness of how to make all that work successfully. It also helps girls deal with being an athlete and the desire to be the best in a world that doesn’t always want them to have the swagger and desire to be a hard working, assertive, capable young women”

Here are some thoughts that our student-athletes shared about the program:

  • “Our team is really respectful of one another now. The drama from the beginning of the year is not even here. We respect one another”
  • “We really stressed respect to one another and that really helped our team to win this championship”
  • “It helped with team bonding. If you’re talking about a topic that everyone can relate to, they contribute”
  • “I can see this program spreading. I think it helps a lot and its very beneficial”
  • “It was always kind of there, but no one ever talked about it”
  • “It helped us realize how much we do effect younger kids. I didn’t think about it before. They look up to us every day”
  • “We always kept the conversation light. We were comfortable with our coaching staff and really open.”
  • “We had to have a leader or someone to break the ice”
  • “She used Pat Summit (Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach). She related a lot of it to things she looked up. They were relevant to things and people we were interested in”


CFA was piloted only by female coaches and currently is only implemented with our female teams that have female coaches.   At South Portland High School we are fortunate that ten of our thirteen female athletic programs have female head coaches.  I have had discussions with YAAPP regarding expanding the program to our male led female sports programs as well, which may require some additional training on each of the topics due to their nature.


YAAPP was able to secure grant funding to help with CFA initiatives.  In the spring of 2014, Sarah Gordon coordinated with a photographer, our coaches and myself to visit SPHS to take photos of some of female student-athletes who participated in the program.  These photos were used for the creation of the posters below.  We hung the posters in the hallways at South Portland High School and distributed them to our two middle and five elementary schools that also hung them.  The posters have definitely assisted to spread word about the program and to bring awareness to the importance of its message.

One pitfall we have experienced with both CFA and CBIM is that the curriculum remains the same each time a coach implements the program with their respective team.  This means that an athlete who is on a particular roster in a subsequent year will be exposed to the same curriculum, which could become redundant.  While the myriad of topics are relevant and important, we have had discussions with YAAPP regarding expanding the program to possibly include CFA II or even breaking the ten lessons down into seven per year, which would provide the opportunity for five of the ten topics to discussed in alternating years (week one is a preview and week twelve is a wrap up).  However, having said this, our coaches have found that having student-athletes who have gone through the program already is very beneficial to driving the conversations and helping those new to the program feel more comfortable with the subject matter and discussions.

As an athletic administrator, I feel that the more tools we can provide our student-athletes with – the better.  It’s not all about the wins and the losses; it’s also about developing our young people to be more productive citizens, and inspiring and empowering them to become leaders and roles models, while supporting one another on and off the field by providing them with some of the tools to do so.  I certainly feel fortunate that YAAPP is embedded in our school culture at South Portland High School and that they are willing to take such an active role to help implement and continue the Coaching Female Athletes program with our coaches and student-athletes.  If this program interests you, I would encourage you to contact YAAPP ( and I’m certain their staff would help you access the materials needed to implement this program with your female student-athletes or explore the program yourself at and by clicking on the Coaching Female Athletes link.”

REI “Force of Nature” Fund

REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.) has been a leader in the outdoor recreation community for years. REI’s programs, such as the #OPTOUTSIDE initiative and the commitment to continue assisting in making the outdoors more accessible through trail development and organizational support, show that the company has additional motivations to strictly business profits. The company has continually shown support for programs focusing on outdoor recreation and education, natural resource conservation and preservation, and stewardship of wild places.

The Force of Nature Campaign looks to continue driving change in the outdoors, this time through altering the expectations built around gender in outdoor recreation. According to the 2017 National Study on Women and the Outdoors:

  • 85% of women see the outdoors as a key to better physical and mental health and overall well being.
  • 7 in 10 women say they would spend more time outside, if not for barriers like weather, time, or having someone to go with.
  • Women who were more encouraged to go outside as young girls are more likely to value time outside. Women who participate in outdoor recreation consistently cite mothers and female role models for encouraging them to participate in outdoor recreational pursuits.
  • 60% of women consider men’s interests in the outdoors to be taken mores seriously than women’s.

Jerry Stritzke, REI’s CEO, provides four approaches to overcoming obstacles relating to gender in outdoor recreation.

  1. Changing the Narrative through highlighting the accomplishments and achievements of women adventurers and athletes.
  2. Creating Community through organized events, classes, trips and retreats that are focused on connecting women and girls to better develop a network of outdoor enthusiasts.
  3. Closing the Gear Gaps through increased production of women’s specific outdoor gear that is the same quality as men’s.
  4. Investing in Community that creates opportunities for women and girls in the outdoors. The “Force of Nature” Fund looks to invest $1 million into organizations that support gender equality in the outdoors. The Fund has already provided $500,000 to programs such as GirlTrek and the YMCA’s BOLD/GOLD program. This month the Fund opened another application process for the remaining $500,000. Click on on the hyperlink provided for application details Apply Here 

National ParkRx Initiative: Using park prescriptions to encourage physical activity

Park Rx

According to the ParkRx initiative obesity costs the United States nearly $190 Billion per year. Roughly 29 million people in the United States are currently diagnosed with diabetes.  The National ParkRx initiative is a collaborative effort with the purpose of using nature and public parks and land of decrease obesity and diabetes rates through increased physical activity.  This is done through Park prescription programs that are developed in cooperation between park and public land managers, physicians and other healthcare providers, as well as, through the connections of community and non-profit organizations.  These groups work together to allow people to use green space (parks, trails, and open space) through increased access, development of programming, and furthered education on the benefits of nature.

The Initiative cites two main outcomes to Park Prescription programs:

1) Park Prescription Programs Improve Health Outcomes by:

  • Encouraging a change in behavior
  • Improved individual and community health
  • Produce advocates for public lands.

2) Park Prescription Programs Improve Public Lands. The Initiative’s goal is that by increasing time spent outside individuals will again see the benefits of spending time in natural environments. The Initiative hopes that as people realize these benefits they will be more likely to become land stewards and advocate for the protection of these spaces.

The following program in Albuquerque, NM is a great example of collaborations between land managers, program administrators and health care providers. If your program is looking for a national initiative to collaborate with, the ParkRx program may be the perfect partnership.

The Nature Playbook: Strategies for facilitating experiences in Nature.


This year the Canadian Parks Council produced, “The Nature Playbook”, a fantastic resource for integrating nature into health, play, and physical activity. According to the Playbook, “Everyone involved in this project is dedicated to connecting a new generation to Nature”.  Research has shown that time spent in nature has a variety of positive effects on the individual, for example: Reduced stress, improved immune system, lower blood pressure, stable mental health, ADHD symptom prevention, positive mindset, increased calmness, and disease prevention.

“The Nature Playbook” is part of larger global initiative, the #NatureForAll campaign, that is working to make natural places more accessible for all people. It is important to note that not all of these places need to be remote wilderness areas; benefits from nature are attainable just through spending a small amount of time at a local urban park or even gardening in the backyard.

The Playbook presents the following Seven Strategies that outline ideas for introducing people to nature and show that the benefits of nature are available through a variety of experiences.

#1 Bring Children into Nature at an early age

#2 Find and share the fun in Nature

#3 Use the urban gateway to Nature

#4 Embrace Technology

#5 Share cultural roots and ancestry in Nature

#6 Seek out diverse partnerships

#7 Empower a new generation of leaders.

Each of the strategies goes into detail and provides examples of activities and programs that support the strategy.  Follow these links to visit The Nature Playbook Website or download the PDF of the document.

The North Face Explore Fund Grant

The Explore Fund Grant is a grant program funded by the North Face. According to the Explore Fund website the grant’s purpose is to financially support 501(c)3 nonprofits that work to:

  • Provide participants experiences that nurture an enduring appreciation of the outdoors.
  • Support projects that protect the environment through environmental stewardship.
  • Use outdoor exploration as the catalyst for positive personal or societal change, such as increasing personal resilience, improving opportunities for life success and future engagement in conservation activities.
  • Encourage participants to try new outdoor activities that are core to The North Face and our passion for outdoor exploration and adventure, including camping, hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, yoga, running and mountain biking.

In the past the grant has been focused on programs that encouraged or facilitate outdoor experiences. This year the grant managers decided to include programs that encourage environmental stewardship, protection, and responsibility as well. One of the goals for the Explore Fund Grant is to “increase diversity and access to underrepresented populations in the outdoors.”

Many of the programs that the National Recreation Foundation helps fund fit well within one or both of these categories. The NRF is dedicated to enhancing the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life of youth, through investing in recreation programs directed at those who are economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged. There seems to be quite a bit of common ground especially when considering the NRF’s current trajectory; focusing on programs that encourage physical activity and outdoor recreation

The North Face Explore Fund Grant is accepting applications from February 22 – April 5, 2017. Follow the Link below to read more about the grant or to submit an application.

Grantee Highlight – Camp Joy

This Grantee Highlight features Camp Joy, an organization that the NRF has been fortunate enough to work with on several granting projects. This post contains a paraphrased transcript of an interview that I had with Gunner Blackmore, the Development Manager at Camp Joy, and considers the importance of finding additional revenue streams and fostering relationships with partnering organizations and programs.

2015 Lindeman School October (8).JPG

Provide a quick overview of what Camp Joy does.

Camp Joy is celebrating its’ 80th anniversary this year, founded in 1937 as a result of the Cincinnati flood. The Organization’s mission is to help kids in Cincinnati and the surrounding region that live in economically challenging situations. Camp Joy partners with other organizations such as, Boys and Girls clubs, child service agencies, and foster services in order to provide these children with a summer camp experience. Over the years the camp has expanded and now works with individuals, including the Cincinnati Children’s hospital, Amputee Coalition of American (national program), and American Diabetes Association. Camp Joy employs 40 year round staff and 60 additional summer camp counselors.

Camp Joy offers several programs; First, the Camp provides children aged 7-16 with a camp experience for a week in the summer and when possible reinforcement during the year through weekend experiences. The impact that Camp Joy has on these children is evident through the large number of campers that return as counselors after aging out of the program.

Camp Joy also partners with schools to provide 2-3 day environmental and experiential education programs on the camp’s grounds. These schools come from all types of economic standing. More affluent schools will pay their way, while less affluent schools are subsidized through the Camps various fundraising ventures.

Finally, Camp Joy also provides team-building programs for corporate executives and university and high school students. These programs allow participants to learn valuable leadership techniques and team building activities to enhance community and teamwork within their corporations or classes.

What program has the NRF help fund in the past?

The NRF has funded several programs at Camp Joy in the past including a mountain bike program, construction of a low ropes course and installation of a sport court flooring system, and provided that allowed the Camp to continue to provide programming for youth while they put other funds into the development of the corporate team-building program, which is a great revenue builder.

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How has this program assisted your organizations development, reach or scope?

The mountain biking program that the NRF helped fund has increased positive camper experience, campers really enjoying participating in a new activity and the challenge that it posses. New programs and elements such as the mountain biking program continue to encourage partnering organizations and children to come back and try something new every summer. It is great to offer new programs for returning campers who come every summer.

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 Keeping with the title of the blog, what lessons have you learned through the development, design, implementation and evaluation of this program?

One lesson is the importance of deepening the relationship with partnering organizations, for example, Camp Joy’s relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati. The Boys and Girls Club sends children to camp every summer, as well as, for reinforcement weekends throughout the year. Camp Joy, like many other programs, is limited by the fact that they only have one week with their campers. The Boys and Girls Club has been influential in helping monitor kids when they are not at Camp. Through the Club, Camp Joy is able to keep track of those children through communication with the Club directors. The Camp also encourages participation during the rest of year at the Boys and Girls Club by using the possibility of going to camp is an incentive to attend throughout the year. Additionally, Camp Joy reinforces the Boys and Girls Club’s community and health programs (Fit For Life, Ready To Serve (volunteerism), and Graduate) while the children are at camp.

What is next for Camp Joy?

Gunner reports that there are several future objectives at Camp Joy. First, the Camp hopes to expand its’ corporate team building programs. These programs offer great revenue potential and would be beneficial to help increase the Camp’s potential to impact the lives of children. Second, Camp Joy wishes to try to expand the reinforcement weekend model and try to become more of a year round facility in order to make the greatest possible influence on campers.


Contact Information – Camp Joy

Camp Address: 10117 Old 3c Highway P.O. Box 157 Clarksville, OH 45113

Camp Phone: 937.289.2031

Gunner’s Phone: 937.289.9140

Gunner’s Email:

Where Do I Start? A resource for the new health programmer.

In a previous post we shared a public service announcement that featured famed cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, expressing his concerns on the growing obesity epidemic. Hawking suggests that as a whole people need to move more and eat less. While this is a powerful and motivational video the question of implementation was still left open to consideration. How do we encourage people to eat less and move more? Many people think that they need to radically change their lifestyle in order to attain significant benefits. This concept of radically changing their lifestyle often discourages individuals from pursuing healthier lifestyles.

For those of us connected to organizations, such as the National Recreation Foundation, we have access to a supportive, influential, and encouraging community to assist in delivering health changes. Many large programs, which focus on encouraging physical activity and healthy eating among their participants, are run by teams of experts in the field of community health or professional public health initiative developers. While we are grateful and celebrate the work of these programs and their administrators, what about small programs that are just starting or individuals who are looking to make an impact in terms of the health of their communities? Even if individuals have no prior experience in the area of physical activity outcomes there are a multitude of resources available, which offer ideas, forums, literature, networking platforms, etc. to assist these young programs. The CDC in particular offers several excellent resources.

The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase Physical Activity in the Community is an excellent publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that according to the guide document, “provides guidance for program managers, policy makers, and others on how to select strategies to increase physical activity in the community.” The guide offers ten strategies to improve health outcomes for communities. Strategies include community wide programs, point of decision prompts, enhancing school-based physical education, urban design and land use policies, and active transport to schools. In addition the guide provides rationale for each strategy, evidence of effectiveness, key considerations, next steps, example programs, and a list of additional resources. This is a wonderful resource for the new or evolving community health programmer.

A link to a PDF of the guide is copied below: