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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Wolf Ridge Supports Outdoor School for All Bill

On May 11, the Outdoor School For All Minnesota coalition introduced the Minne­sota Outdoor School For All bill in the Min­nesota state legislature. Coauthored by Rep. Kristi Pursell, a former Wolf Ridge Gradu­ate Naturalist, the bill proposed funding for a three-day, two-night “immersive nature experience” for fourth through eighth grade Minnesota students who attend a public, pri­vate, or tribal school.

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Cen­ter is one of the partner organizations of the Outdoor School For All Minnesota coalition. For over fifty years, Wolf Ridge has provided fun and educational experiences for children from all over Minnesota, and Wolf Ridge Ex­ecutive Director Peter Smerud detailed why the Outdoor School for All bill is important.

“All of our local area schools bring children for outdoor learning experiences that truly change their lives. Yet, with several options throughout the state for learning experienc­es like this, currently only 30% of Minnesota children get this opportunity. When most of us reflect on our fondest times of childhood, routinely it is memories in the outdoors that flood into our brain. Today, we all see it… childhood has moved indoors, leaving kids disconnected from the natural world. We are losing hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusi­asts, and, overall…our outdoor heritage. In the Northland we are fortunate compared to suburbs and other developed areas where in­creasingly our populations are urbanized. We along the North Shore have access that most do not.”

Smerud quotes a study that shows the av­erage American child spends seven hours a day on entertainment media, such as TVs, computers, video games, phones, and other devices. This is out of balance with the min­iscule time on average children spend out­doors each day: only seven minutes, Smer­ud says. “Today’s children don’t know a life without ubiquitous internet, smartphones, video games, social media, and never-ending choices of streaming movies, games, and mu­sic. Yet, at Wolf Ridge again and again we host children who have never been in a for­est, followed a set of animal tracks, or experi­enced darkness with a sky full of stars. What will the childhood memories be of our future generations?” Smerud wonders.

“It’s clear from the past legislative session that this is not a partisan issue,” Smerud says. “While the chief author of the first bill was introduced by [DFL] Representative Pursell of Northfield, bills were introduced in the House and the Senate, and by both Repub­licans and Democrats.” These bills will be heard in the 2024 legislative session. Smerud concludes, “Getting our kids outside, build­ing a deeper connection to the outdoors and each other, is something we all need.” If schools are interested in connecting with Wolf Ridge to set up a learning experience for their students, they are invited to visit https://wolf-ridge.org/  to learn more.

Haley Searls
Haley Searls
Hello! My name is Haley Searls. I’ve loved writing from an early age, though my nonfiction writing at five years old consisted mainly of weather and gardening reports. I still have some of those early articles: “It’s sunny.” “It’s still sunny.” “It’s raining.” I’m glad to say my writing has improved since then. I wrote a guest post for the Silver Bay Public Library blog, and was the writer/editor of the newsletter for my American Heritage Girls troop. I have been writing for the North Shore Journal since June 2022. Besides writing, I love reading, drawing, photography, music, and spending time with family and friends. Two books that have really influenced my writing are Reforming Journalism by Marvin Olasky and Writer to Writer by Bodie and Brock Thoene. As a journalist, I want to share positive community interactions and inspire people to make lasting connections. Article topics that interest me are ones which show community activities and involvement. Such articles include community events, youth accomplishments, library programming, small businesses, local history, local artists and authors, art programs, and cultural events such as theater and dance. If you have an article idea, email the North Shore Journal with my name in the subject line! I look forward to hearing from you!
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