An Oregon State University Extension Service survey showed underserved families and children in Benton County and other areas of the mid-Willamette Valley have limited opportunities to visit natural areas because they don’t have access to transportation and the atmosphere for first-time outdoor visitors is less than welcoming.
In response, OSU’s Get Outdoors Day gives kids and their families the opportunity to safely explore and learn about the natural world. The idea is to connect youth to the outdoors and support the ideals of sustainability, fitness and nutrition while strengthening the ties between Extension and communities in the mid-Willamette valley. OSU Extension, the College of Forestry and Benton County Health Department hold Get Outdoors Day each June in conjunction with National Get Outdoors Day.
“We really strived to connect kids and families with nature through a safe, healthful and family-fun event,” said Stephen Fitzgerald, professor and Extension specialist and director of College of Forestry Research Forests.
The 2019 event drew 598 youth and families and introduced participants to the wonders of nature at OSU’s Peavy Arboretum, a popular outdoor recreational site. Of the attendees, 90% indicated that Get Outdoors Day helped their families gain confidence in participating in outdoor activities. Extension reached out to a diverse audience, including underserved families in Albany, Corvallis and the OSU community, and provided transportation and interpreters in Spanish and Arabic and English. An estimated 35% reported Spanish as their first language. Volunteers were similarly diverse.
Some of the youth had never had an opportunity to explore in the outdoors. For one day, they got the chance to fall in love with nature and possibly continue their outdoor adventure.