August 10, 2020

Southern New Mexico Children’s Forest Gets Kids and Adults Learning Outside

Posted on 03. May, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

Forests are outdoor classrooms.  This is a simple, yet powerful, statement that drives home the U.S. Forest Service’s decades-long commitment to get kids outdoors to rediscover and experience nature up-close and personal.  We believe our national forests provide great classroom settings where youth can have a myriad of learning experiences such as the thrill of fishing a cold mountain stream and catching their first trout. It doesn’t take long to make the connection that fish, along with humans, need clean water to live and thrive. Fish habitat and our drinking water are dependent on healthy forests.

The Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico received $70,000 in funding for the Southern New Mexico Children’s Forests.  This grant encompasses the Lincoln National Forest and many agencies, schools and youth organizations, and interested individuals that are bringing kids to the outdoors and the outdoors to kids.  It is not one place, nor one program, but a network of places, programs, and activities that give all citizens of and visitors to southern New Mexico, the opportunity to visit, explore, and learn about the outdoor world. The Children’s Forest that received funding in New Mexico gives the Forest Service and their partners the opportunity to do something in and for their local communities.   We’re optimistic about the future and want to be part of improving the next generation’s chance to be happy, healthy, and well-educated about their world.

We want to open their minds to the outdoors.  Our grade-appropriate field trip curricula for elementary school classes are the keystone of our Children’s Forest.  This will eventually give children in southern New Mexico at least two field trips per year to an outdoor space.  The grade-appropriate curricula will introduce, teach, and/or reinforce the State standards and benchmarks that teachers are required to cover.  We expect this to increase student understanding as measured by test scores and surveys.

The Children’s Forest Intern Program will be an exciting opportunity for college students working toward teaching and natural resource degrees. Through the Education Department at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo, two hard-working students will earn the honor of being Children’s Forest Interns each semester and during the summer.  Interns will help us design and implement Children’s Forest programs, while learning about conservation education and becoming better teachers themselves. One program of our Children’s Forest is an After School Teacher’s Institute.

Teachers will meet after school to learn hands-on environmental education activities.  Teachers will be able to implement award-winning curricula such as Project Learning Tree, Project WET, Project WILD, Project Food, Land, and People, and Project Archaeology after attending Institute Workshops.  A future website for the Southern New Mexico Children’s Forest will have links to partners, resources, and opportunities for educators. Nationally, more than 4 million young people participated in Forest Service conservation education programs last year.  It is encouraging to know that we can include New Mexico kids in these programs. I believe personally experiencing the outdoors truly gives us an increased appreciation for clean air, clear water, healthy forests, grasslands and deserts, not to mention those awe-inspiring Southwestern landscapes.  To do that, we must reconnect our younger generations with our forests, in hopes that they will be future stewards of our land and our environment.

For more information on the Southern New Mexico Children’s Forest, contact Peg Crim, Lincoln National Forest at 575-434-7231 or email pcrim@fs.fed.us.  If you would like more information on the Forest Service’s More Kids in the Woods program go to their website at: www.tinyurl.com/FS-MKIW.

Corbin Newman was assigned to the position of Regional Forester for the Southwestern Region of the U.S. Forest Service in December 2007. Newman has held numerous positions at all levels of the Forest Service—in both the eastern and western parts of the country—during his 35-year career.

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