Outdoor Nation’s Top 20 Ideas for Engaging Youth in the Outdoors

September 21, 2011

Outdoor Nation will invest $50,000 of seed funding in the coming months into the 20 projects outlined below to provide American youth with outdoor mentors, better access to outdoor recreation and deeper engagement through community service and advocacy work.

Project leaders will receive ongoing technical assistance from The Outdoor Foundation staff as well as community liaisons with the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance program.

The projects are divided into three categories — mentoring, access and engagement — which align with goals identified in the America’s Great Outdoors Report published in February by the Obama administration.


  • Reach One Teach One will pair college-age mentors with students at several schools in New York to promote and organize outdoor activities and opportunities with local organizations during the school day.
  • An Hour for Earth will arrange, organize and implement short monthly presentations and tutorial sessions for middle & elementary age students on topics that range from recreation to conservation. Simple outdoor activities will be part of every program – empowering youth to bring these outdoor lessons home.
  • Urban Outdoors will work to connect local college’s outdoor recreation programs with high schools to give underprivileged kids the opportunity to get outdoors and build a relationship with positive role models.
  • Athens Inside Out will leverage resources at the University of Georgia campus to provide at least five outdoor experiences for local at-risk youth.
  • ON Campus Club will work with one college and two elementary schools to organize 4 outdoor experiences as well as schedule monthly meetings to build a lasting relationship with the students and the schools. The goal will be to expand the program in the second year to three colleges and six elementary schools.
  • Outdoor Nation Expedition (O.N.E) will connect college student groups with local teachers to arrange and organize at least 3 extreme outdoor expeditions – sparking a broader interest in the outdoors.
  • Natures Big Brothers & Big Sisters will teach the young leaders of Big Brothers / Big Sisters to be safe outdoor leaders and positive mentors. Once trained, they will plan and implement monthly outdoor activities and service projects with their ‘little ones.’


  • Traveling Outdoor Recreation will work with local retailers and partners to secure gear for activities that can be mobile such as rock climbing, yoga and hiking. The goal in the first year will be to work with five partnering schools to offer simple outdoor recreation opportunities and ideas for students and teachers throughout the year.
  • The Outdoor Action Pack will work with local citizens and community partners to develop a day pack which includes guides, maps, and gear to explore outdoor spaces in local areas. Youth and families who are interested in short outdoor experiences will be able to check out a pack at a local partnering organization.
  • Gear to Grow Library Building on the traditional model, Gear to Grow will develop a gear library using a time share model in which people will be able to share and exchange equipment with one another – eliminating the ‘middle man’ organization that can often be a barrier.
  • GreenSpace will work with students and community leaders to re-develop vacant properties into green spaces for the community to enjoy and recreate safely.
  • Outdoorbook.com will develop social media campaigns to promote accessible and affordable outdoor activities and provide direction for enthusiasts – especially those entry level individuals. The campaigns will promote mentor networks, outdoor activities and events and provide information about gear and other outdoor issues.
  • Youth Outreach Outdoors will help start outdoor clubs in two local high schools. Leaders will secure equipment and outdoor activity guidance by partnering with local retailers and other community organizations. The goal will be to organize at least five outdoor events and two service projects a year for each club.


  • On the Go will work with multiple organizations such as youth groups, places of worship, the artistic community, and even retirement homes to bring together a diverse group to discover new ways to participate in the outdoors – forming new relationships with nature and with each other based on various interests and experiences.
  • Team Priority will organize community members to influence outdoor policies and raise awareness and support for outdoor programs by using a combination of social media and on-the-ground grassroots organizing.
  • Take Congress Camping will develop a tool kit youth and partner organizations can use to demonstrate the power of camping and other outdoor activities to members of Congress and other policy makers. The first phase will include a post-card template that youth can fill in and mail to decision makers encouraging them to support outdoor youth programs.
  • Walk Your Block will working with local officials to close off and transform an urban street in Dallas into an accessible place for people of all ages to enjoy recreation along with informative stations that provide information on outdoor opportunities and resources.
  • Abuelitos Project will engage Latino youth in regular outdoor service projects – especially those focused on supporting elderly community members. To start, every two weeks young volunteers will devote several hours to help neighborhood ‘grandparents’ or Abuelitos clean their yard and plant a community garden.
  • Yaakw Yees (Young Canoe) will carve two traditional canoes at the University of Alaska SE to immerse the community in Tlingit culture and reconnect the historical and modern day cultures. This pilot program will educate a broad audience on Alaska Native heritage and outdoor issues.
  • NYC ‘Own It’ Program will expose and educate local young people about their outdoor opportunities through outdoor activities and clean-up service projects at local parks.