For today's youth, diminishing participation in the outdoors carries a host of impacts on them and society - from the decline in kids' physical health to their diminishing environmental knowledge. Helping kids discover the pure enjoyment of playing outdoors offers a list of benefits that permeate their entire lives. A host of studies demonstrate the many benefits of incorporating nature-based activities into our kids' lives, including:
- Reduced stress and improved physical health.
- Higher test scores and improved attention span.
- Better self-confidence and initiative.
- Environmental knowledge and appreciation.
Beyond the impacts on children themselves, the lost connection with nature does not bode well for the future of our nation's wild places. At 193 million acres, our National Forest System offers a wealth of natural environments to explore. But those places and all the resources contained within depend on a knowledgeable, caring public to act as stewards in the future. As the Congressionally chartered nonprofit focused on conserving and enhancing our National Forests, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) wants to help our kids take full advantage of these wonderful landscapes - and learn to be good stewards of the land for their future.
The NFF has long included youth-based stewardship within our grant-making and volunteer programs. Based on recent research into existing youth outdoor engagement and education programs, we are now designing an expansion of our youth initiatives. We aim to offer meaningful, educational and just plain fun opportunities for kids to interact with nature on their National Forests. Teacher training, youth-based citizen science, volunteer stewardship - all will come together to revitalize the connection between our public lands and our young people. Our programs will give communities, teachers and kids the chance to appreciate the many values of our National Forests firsthand, while learning what it takes to perpetuate those values for future generations.