By the Thorne Nature Experience staff
With recess canceled and afterschool programs shuttered, the staff at Boulder, Colorado’s Thorne Nature Experience had to look for alternate ways to help families get outside. The solution we arrived at was the Outside Every Day Challenge (Reto De Cada Dia Afuera) to encourage parents to get all Boulder County youth Outside Every Day!
We knew that the success of the program would depend on reaching a wider audience than our own e-mail lists and social media followers, so we built the program as a collaborative effort. Twenty area nonprofits and government agencies signed on as sponsors and together are promoting ways to stay active during the coronavirus closures.
As our Executive Director, Keith Desrosiers, explained in a recent interview, “Thorne’s programs are typically focused on deep nature connection and creating an empathy for one’s self and other living things. But right now, our message needs to be really different. Kids just need to get outside and be in the sunshine. This time outside will support their physical and mental health and well-being, and while it is not a focus of the Challenge, I trust it will also enable them to connect to the natural world.”
Anyone who signs up at outsideeverydaychallenge.org receives regular emails, in English and Spanish, with information on activities, contests, raffles and tips. Some simple suggestions for kids include chalk art, a scooter ride, hopscotch or even just doing a math lesson under a tree. The campaign website also includes instructions for more detailed outside activities, including a “be a camera” game to help kids notice what’s around them and a modified hide-and-seek game that includes making “tracks” using rocks, leaves, twigs or their feet.
Thorne and our Outside Every Day Challenge partners are specifically concerned about equitable access to being outside and how COVID-19 is impacting already vulnerable populations. “Access to nature and the outdoors was already not equal in our community,” says Keith. “Now with schoolyards and playgrounds closed, there is even greater disparity. It’s something that’s definitely heightened in this crisis.”
To address these equity concerns, a priority of the campaign is helping parents who live in apartments or mobile homes without backyards, as well as those who live in areas without good access to green spaces or trails, understand what safe and joyful outdoor options are available for their children. To ensure participation from low-income and Latinx families, we are employing a team of bi-lingual and bi-cultural staff members and utilizing volunteers and youth leaders to spread the word about the campaign and provide additional support including one-on-one parent support calls and free kits with materials and supplies to help families get outside.
While the Outside Every Day Challenge was built as a Boulder County program, most of the website’s activities and resources are relevant to other communities. Thorne Nature Experience and its partners welcome anyone, regardless of where they live to take the challenge and participate as well as for other nonprofits to repurpose any of the campaign materials or resources.
Thorne Nature Experience was founded in 1954 by Dr. Oakleigh Thorne, II. Thorne was one of Colorado’s first environmental nonprofits and has a storied history and many accomplishments that include connecting more than 300,000 youth and adults to nature.