School is back in session. And for some lucky students this fall, their classroom happened to be a park or trail for a day.
At Lake Maria State Park, third-graders spent the day digging up invasive worms, petting five species of Minnesota turtles, and peering through microscopes to see the bugs that live in the lake.
This field-trip is one of the four projects funded by Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota and organized by local friends groups. All five projects facilitate youth education in a park or trail.
Minnesota’s parks and trails have so much to offer as nature’s classrooms. When students are immersed with hands-on learning it brings the lessons to life. Plus, many parks and trails are designed to accommodate large groups with shelters, amphitheaters and trails. Yet, two barriers often stand in the way: lack of funding—especially for transportation—and lack of awareness on how to utilize these places for this purpose.
By encouraging friends groups to outreach to educators in their communities and find ways to use the park, we tapped into a wealth of enthusiasm.
Five friends groups responded to our grant initiative with projects that perfectly fit the unique needs and resources of their communities. See the projects on page 5.
This program not only has the direct impact of bringing hundreds of youth into parks and trails—some for the first time—it also builds the capacity of friends groups, hopefully to continue this work into the future.