Connecting kids with the natural world is an important part of our mission at 3FIA. In his book Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, author Richard Louv wrote…at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature – in positive ways.”  Now is the time to get our young people out into the woods to not only connect them to nature, but to also work with them to become citizen stewards to take care of the land that is ours to treasure.

In 2012 130 junior high school students attended the 3rd Annual “MyForest” Summit The event was held at SCICON, the environmental education campus for Tulare County Office of Education. The “MyForest” Summit for 7th, 8th and 9th grade students was held over the weekend of National Public Lands Day. On this day, thousands of volunteers across the U.S. gather at national parks and forests, reservoirs, and other public areas to improve and enhance the resources. Adult and youth volunteers work with public land managers on projects to care for these special places where Americans go to enjoy the outdoors. Students participated in a variety of hands-on resource enhancement an stewardship projects.

It began after school on Friday with initiation games, career fair and an outdoor campfire program with entertainment. On Saturday morning teams of students performed volunteer work on public lands such as trail maintenance, river cleanup or wildlife enhancement projects. At noon everyone returned to campus and enjoyed an afternoon of outdoor recreation activities hosted by outdoor organizations showcasing their favorite outdoor activities. Activities included a climbing wall, fly fishing, mountain biking, stock packing, leave no trace camping, laser target shooting, and Dutch oven cooking.

In our increasingly plugged-in culture, the forest is one place where adults and kids can reconnect with the natural world. Projects like the My Forest Youth Summit benefit both the environment and those who are able to donate their time and effort. Special thanks to Back Country Horsemen of California – Sequoia area, Porterville Breakfast Lions, Tulare County Office of Education and Kings County Fire Fighters Association for their cash support and to the many volunteers who helped organize and put on the event. Thanks also to Kern River Outfitters, High Sierra Trail Crew, National Park Service, California State Parks, and California Land Management for handout and prize donations. Without the generosity of the contributors this unique youth outdoor event wouldn’t be possible.