National Programs - Connecting Kids with Nature

Kids in the Woods
The Forest Service has a long and proud tradition of reaching out to Americans on behalf of conservation. From Smokey Bear, to NatureWatch, to Project Learning Tree, the Forest Service has worked across programs and disciplines to integrate conservation education into much of what we do. But we must do more. If we are to meet the conservation challenges of the 21st century, then we must spread environmental literacy across America, focusing first and foremost on kids.

Through a challenge cost-share program called “More Kids in the Woods,” the Forest Service is contributing to a growing national movement to bring kids to nature—and nature to kids. The successful projects focus on building partnerships, getting kids outside, enhancing environmental literacy, and tackling service-learning projects. In 2007 and 2008, the Forest Service provided more than $1,000,000 of support -- matched at least by an equal amount of partner contributions. Click here ( to go to a list of 2008 selected projects.

Junior Forest Ranger
The Junior Forest Ranger (JFR) program is an exciting way for young people to explore their national forests and grasslands.  The JFR program uses Forest Service science and practices to encourage children 7 through 13 to enjoy and appreciate nature. JFR motivates children to explore the natural and cultural world, and embrace their responsibility to it.

Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl Poster Contest
For more than 30 years the U.S. Forest Service and the National Garden Clubs Inc. have worked together to sponsor an annual poster contest that reaches elementary children throughout the United States. The contest helps promote Smokey Bear and his fire prevention message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” and Woodsy Owl and his conservation message  “Lend a Hand – Care for the Land”.

Robert Bateman's Get to Know Program
In an unprecedented collaboration, over thirty major organizations have joined forces to invite young Americans to discover nature by entering the Robert Bateman "Get to Know" Contest. These partners include the US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, the Children & Nature Network, the Wyland Foundation, and many others.

The Get to Know Contest invites any American age 18 or younger to go outdoors, to "get to know" their wild neighbors, and then to share their experience by creating art, writing, or photography. Winners will receive wild prizes, including the publication of their work in a calendar, a weeklong stay in one of Canada's national parks, VIP invitations to special events, LA Dodgers tickets, and more.

The Get to Know Contest was started in 2000 by prominent Canadian artist and naturalist Robert Bateman, who believes that "caring for the planet begins with getting to know the names of our neighbors of other species." The contest has run annually in Canada for ten years, and launched in the US for the first time on September 26. The contest theme for this year is "forests," and entries will be accepted until November 30. To learn more and find out how to enter, visit

Click here to go to more information within the CE website.