Client: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Location: Anchorage Vicinity + Chugach National Forest
Project Date: 2009-2010
Project Lead: Shelly Wade
The USFS engaged Agnew::Beck and partner Triangle Associates Inc. to assist the Chugach National Forest in drawing the next generation of children and their families outdoors. A::B and Triangle provided strategic planning, facilitation, and creative communication services for the Children’s Forest Initiative.
The Children’s Forest Initiative
Get Out, Go Wild, Change the Future
Modern life creates ever greater demands on the natural world. At the same time, most people are increasingly disconnected from nature, and often don’t have personal experience with the joys or the practical benefits offered by the natural world. This disconnect is particularly true for those kids and families who lack resources, access or even exposure to the out-of-doors. The Chugach Children’s Forest initiative takes on these realities with a set of ambitious programs, aimed at better connecting kids (and grown-ups) with the rich, natural world calling outside the door.
National Forests have two great advantages in this effort: first they offer beautiful, engaging natural landscapes; second most forests are relatively accessible and open to a wide range of uses. As a result, national forests provide exceptional laboratories for outdoor learning, as well as outdoor-focused jobs. And perhaps most importantly, forests can provide places and experiences where kids can fall in love with being outside.
From Big Ideas to Specific Actions
To reach these objectives, the Children’s Forest initiative calls for actions in a set of broadening circles. This includes building on existing programs, and also working with new partners to spark new activities and facilities both within and outside of the Chugach National Forest. Activities in the forest include programs such as a youth-managed section of the forest, youth expeditions and field camps. Outside the forest the initiative will work on, for example, programs and curricula for schools and support to “get outdoors” activities.
The overall results of the Children’s Forest strategic planning effort are intended to reach the following near term goals:
- Education: Expand and develop new programs to educate the
public about the forest environment, from the ecosystems of specific places to global issues such as climate change.
- Economy: help prepare kids for careers tied to the natural world.
- Health: Actively promote outdoor activity and healthy lives; help remove barriers that keep people from developing a life-long love for playing outdoors.
- Relevance: Build stronger ties between communities and the national forests; help ensure forests are a key part of the quality of life of adjoining communities.
Reaching near term outcomes sets the stage for more ambitious goals:
- Partnerships for Funding: Create long-term partnerships to support programs that invite more people to get out, learn about and enjoy the natural world.
- Stewardship + Inheritance: Build a stronger sense of public ownership and care about the future of national forests and the natural environment in general; foster a knowledgeable, enthusiastic new generation of forest users, to protect forests for our children, and theirs too.