2019 KEEN Effect Youth Grants: 200,000+ Hours to Reconnect with Nature
By Mark Steinbuck, KEEN Effect grants and community specialist
Back in 1994, the world said hello to the Chunnel, goodbye to Kurt Cobain, OJ Simpson was on the lam, and if KEEN existed then, you would be reading this
blog post World Wide Web article on Netscape Navigator. Looking back, 25 years is a lot of time. What if we had used all of that time to reconnect our children to nature, to teach them how to advocate for healthier rivers, learn how to climb rocks, build snow caves, and plant a garden?
This year, roughly 25 years (218,590 of cumulative program hours) will be spent outside by over 7,000 children enrolled in our 13 KEEN Effect Youth Grant partner organizations.
This year, roughly 25 years (218,590 of cumulative program hours) will be spent outside by over 7,000 children enrolled in our 13 KEEN Effect Youth Grant partner organizations. Our grants seek to reconnect our global youth to nature by having fun, learning a little bit about the earth, and taking care of it along the way.
When we started the KEEN Effect Grant Program in 2014, we knew we wanted to make an impact on responsible outdoor participation. After a few years of seeing the response to our program and the massive amounts of applications focused on kids, we started to notice: being outside in nature is a therapy with no replacement. But strangely, and increasingly so, it’s hard to access for so many kids. Around the world, there is a lack of security and routine to access natural spaces, and it’s taking a toll on our health.
So we read the books, attended the conferences, consulted with organizations that know better than we do, and looked to the wider world of philanthropy for ideas and ways to make the best impact on the world around us. It turns out, investing deeply in our future is a good idea!
This year, we have stayed true to so much of our six-year legacy of the KEEN Effect Grant Program, but have also introduced some key changes (like a 2-year funding cycle and an emphasis on deeper investments per child) that we feel make our program more impactful, more reliable, and more in service to our relationships with our KEEN Effect partners.
When kids reconnect to the natural world, they can sense it. It might be subtle, like near-sightedness slowly gaining long-range focus. Or it could be huge, like anxiety melting away with each breath. It might even inspire ditching the Snapchat feed every 30 seconds (but we’ll take what we can get).
So let’s reconnect – it’ll do us some good.
OUR 2019 RECONNECT PARTNERS:
1. Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center – Key Biscayne, FL
Summer by the Sea Camp (pictured above) is a co-ed, 4-week program that provides scholarships for Miami’s underserved children to engage in STEAM-related activities and learn life-enhancing skills through hands-on exploration of south Florida's unique ecosystems. Campers participate in marine science expeditions, outdoor recreation, and multi-disciplinary arts.
Reconnect hours: 12,000
2. Mountain Alliance – Boone, NC
Canoe Program for Teens engages teenagers in transformative opportunities through paddling on local rivers. MA has been providing free outdoor experiential education since 1990, and hopes to connect students with the incredible water resources in our area. These programs will be inclusive to at risk and under resourced youth.
Reconnect hours: 72,000
For many of these students, they live just a few blocks from nature, but don't know basic outdoors skills like how to build a fire, read a map, or look for wildlife.
3. Mississippi Park Connection – St. Paul, MN
Every Kid in a Park supports fourth grade students learning from national park rangers in the Mississippi River's great outdoor classroom. Students who come on park field trips learn about geology, geography, history, environmental science, and how to play in the outdoors. For many of these students, they live just a few blocks from nature, but don't know basic outdoors skills like how to build a fire, read a map, or look for wildlife.
Reconnect hours: 15,190
4. City Kids – Washington, DC
Job Experience Training Leadership Program connects over 70 urban high school youth to a multi-year Career and Exploration program, using the outdoors as a vehicle to teach critical life skills in order to prepare youth for future employment.
Reconnect hours: 17,100
5. Soul River Runs Deep – Portland, OR
North Umpqua River Deployment brings deployments of youth and Veterans to Steamboat Creek, to observe and learn about the wild steelhead habitat in the North Umpqua watershed and the conservation efforts from Mr. Frank Moore, an honored World War II Veteran and renowned angler, who served from 1971 to 1974 on the State of Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Reconnect hours: 2,160
6. Earth Team – Richmond, CA
Asphalt Break!: The Spirit of Exploration is a 24 month-long program serving 300 underserved high school youth. 20 teams of outdoor first-timers will spend 25,000 hrs outside in 20 immersive adventures visiting 5 different ecosystems to acquire new outdoor exploration abilities, learn about landscape conservation, and develop skills to become environmental leaders.
Reconnect hours: 25,050
7. Young Women Empowered – Seattle, WA
Nature Connections serving young women ages 13-18. Side by side with adult women mentors, girls of all backgrounds, including refugees, immigrants, and children of color engage in healthy outdoor activities, environmental learning and stewardship, and an elder mentorship program while having inspiring experiences of the natural world.
Reconnect hours: 10,250
8. Winter Wildlands Alliance – Boise, ID
SnowSchool is a unique program designed to introduce underserved K-12 students to the wonders of nature through snowshoe exploration and snow science investigation. The project aims to engage all 400 students from an underserved rural school district in recurring outdoor adventures on surrounding public lands.
Reconnect hours: 12,600
9. Careyes Foundation – Jalisco, MX
Ecology Education in Coastal Mexico would further develop a hands-on outdoor recreation program for underserved rural schoolchildren in Jalisco, Mexico. Through a dual-emphasis of conservation field trips and community bike rides, students will interact with sea turtles, witness the beauty of coastal ecosystems, and gain intimate knowledge of local flora and fauna, providing them with the impetus to become lifelong stewards of their local environment.
Reconnect hours: 86,000
10. Size of Wales – Wales, UK
Forest Champions is a dynamic and immersive experience for young people in Celtic Rainforests and other special forests in Wales. The program inspires life-long passion for the world’s forests, an understanding of the importance of forests in mitigating climate change and creates a cohort of “Forest Champions.”
Reconnect hours: 1,600
11. Free to be Kids – London, UK
Thrive Outside Programme works with some of the most disadvantaged children in London, UK, using nature based activities to build confidence/problem-solving skills, provide horizon-broadening experiences, opportunities to feel brave and and support to talk more overtly about thoughts and feelings. All work is provided at no cost to families.
Reconnect hours: 10,000
12. Human and Hope Association – Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Youth Leadership Program inspires students studying with Human and Hope Association in Siem Reap to appreciate the environment and become ethical leaders through mentoring and exploring the world around them. Students will study Khmer history, culture, and Cambodian biodiversity while cleaning up litter on local neighborhood streets and act on other community issues.
Reconnect hours: 5,040
13. BC Wildlife Federation - Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) Youth Program provides two, high quality outdoor education camps held throughout British Columbia: Wild Kidz and Go Wild. Wild Kidz introduces kids ages 9-12 to different ways of having fun outdoors, where Go Wild teaches youth 13-17 the knowledge and skills needed to be conservation leaders in their communities. Everything from navigation to environmental engineering to First Nations knowledge informs a local conservation project in each community.
Reconnect hours: 14,400