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Daniel Boone National Forest partnership champions environmental education programs for inner city youth

ATLANTA – Nearly 150 students participated in a hands-on environmental education field trip to the scenic Red River Gorge on the Daniel Boone National Forest as part of the Louisville “Every Child Outdoors” program. This initiative started with grant funding from the Forest Service’s “More Kids in the Woods” program.

The Daniel Boone National Forest and Louisville Metro Parks have hosted educational field trips for urban fourth graders every year since 2008, with the primary purpose of providing environmental education and outdoor recreational experiences for underserved, inner city youth. The students hiked more than a mile to learn about this area’s unique plant and animal species, specifically aquatic species from an adjacent stream. They also learned how, over thousands of years, erosion formed natural stone arches and rock shelters. At a rock shelter along a cliff, the youth enjoyed a brief lesson on the cultural history of eastern Kentucky.

The program has since expanded to provide outdoor adventure and inquiry-based activities in multiple parks and natural areas year round. So far, more than 3,000 children have participated from six urban elementary schools. All educational activities are tied to the Next Generation Science Standards and incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) into the school curriculum.

Inner city youth experience the scenic beauty of the Red River Gorge during the ECHO program on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Over 3,000 children from underserved communities have participated in this STEAM-based curriculum. (Forest Service photos by Kimberly Bonaccorso)

Students from Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School dip for aquatic species as they learn about unique animals and plants during their environmental field trip to the Red River Gorge. The Every Child Outdoors program is funded by “More Kids in the Woods” grants from the Forest Service. (Forest Service photos by Kimberly Bonaccorso)