Karen McCall via Crowdrise
November 16, 2014
BENEFITING: PIEDMONT WILDLIFE CENTER
EVENT DATE: Nov 15, 2014
I am running the American Family Fitness Half Marathon in Richmond, VA, November 15, 2014, to raise money for a non-profit, Piedmont Wildife Center. I work with the center connecting kids to nature through camps and after-school programs at various schools in Durham, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, NC. The mission of Piedmont Wildlife Center (PWC) is to foster healthy connections among people, wildlife and nature through education programs, conservation projects and a wildlife assistance program.
PWC currently conducts both education and conservation programs to fulfill our mission. Education programs are geared to school-aged children, their families and the general public as we work to instill in the community an awareness and deeper appreciation for nature and the wildlife that share our environment. We offer children and teenagers experiences in nature through summer camps, intersession camps, and afterschool programs, where we teach them the skills to become passionate learners and environmental leaders. Meanwhile, our conservation programs work to restore and enhance wildlife habitat in the local area and in the backyards and schoolyards of the community. We also work to connect citizens to the needs of wildlife and offer experiences to investigate nature through various citizen scientist opportunities. Our wildlife assistance program encourages more local veterinarians to treat wildlife and the Center operates a dawn to dusk volunteer staffed wildlife hotline to refer citizens with wildlife issues to the closest and most appropriate source of care and/or humane removal.
We have the opportunity to work with students who may not get the chance to explore the woods or other natural areas around them. They are often scared to go into the woods and don't spend much time outside. When they participate in our program, we dispell that fear and watch them bloom. We have seen students take on challenges like identifying a plant or discovering how diverse their backyard is, and how they bond to their surrounding environment, want to learn more, share their knowledge with others, and become more connected in their community. It is amazing to see students begin the program with a fear of the woods, then eager to go out and explore them regardless of weather.
Time spent outside is essential to a child’s health and education. Outdoor activity has been proven to improve eyesight, provide Vitamin D for strong bones and healthy hearts, and help children stay fit and maintain a healthy weight. Time spent outside and in nature has also been shown to improve the attention spans of all children, and can actually reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Faber Taylor & Kuo, 2009). The problem is - children are no longer going outside. Research has shown that today’s children are spending half as much time outside as their parents did 20 years ago (Juster et al., 2004). Instead of going outside, children now spend on average 6 hours a day looking at electronic screens (Rideout et al., 2005). Obesity rates have increased along with this increase in indoor time, and in 2012 more than one-third of children and teenagers were overweight or obese (Ogden et al., 2014). Regular outdoor time, especially time in natural surroundings, is becoming a thing of the past. This “indoor childhood” trend clearly represents a tremendous risk to our children’s long term physical, emotional and educational development.
Programs designed to get kids outside, keep them active and engaged, and inspire them to learn about nature can improve the health of our children while lengthening attention spans, diminishing aggressiveness, and ultimately advancing learning. Offering environmental education programs in schools has been shown to improve standardized test scores (Bartosh, 2003). Studies also show that children with more hands-on participatory learning experiences have a greater aptitude for leadership, vision and inspired action. However, most school curricula do not include time spent outdoors, much less time spent in nature. Piedmont Wildlife Center’s afterschool environmental education program has been specifically designed according to national best practices to meet this need in our community, and to further our mission of fostering healthy connections among people, wildlife and nature through education.
With support from you, we reduce Nature Deficit disorder, give kids a better balance and quality of life. These students are more apt to take care of their community.