For a child to be truly healthy in body and mind, they need access to optimal nutrition, physical activity, safe and supportive environments and nurturing relationships with adults. As well as access to the outdoors. Time spent in nature positively contributes to human wellbeing, and communities improve when people connect and thrive outdoors.

Rangeley Outing club advisor, Nini Christianson, and Kingfield resident Gisele Chenard went on a hike to Poplar Stream Falls on October 4th with Teens to Trails Executive Director, Alicia Heyburn as a fun and active way to share ideas and build relationships. Outdoor gatherings are offered monthly for people who want to learn how to connect students with the outdoors.

Recently,  Nini Christensen, Advisor to the Rangeley Lakes Regional School outing club met with Teens to Trails for a hike, and a chance to share ideas on how to best serve the students of the middle and high school with co-curricular outdoor activities.

Teens to Trails mission is to connect Maine high school students to life-changing outdoor experiences, and one way they do that is by helping schools establish and sustain outing clubs. The non-profit organization provides gear, grants and logistical assistance to outing clubs across the state, aiming to alleviate burdens placed on club leaders, who are often busy teachers.

“I reflect back to my high school days and remember not really fitting in,” said Christinason. “I was shy and unsure of myself and then I got involved with our outing club. It definitely changed my focus and empowered me to pursue a degree in Outdoor Education as well as a lifelong love for outdoor activities. In these socially distant times, it’s really important to find safe ways to connect with others and to enjoy the natural beauty of our region.”

Despite the challenges of maintaining appropriate physical distance, there are many activities that outing clubs can still do which provide great benefits to their student members such as watching the full moon rise over Rangeley Lake (there is a Blue Moon on October 31. That’s right: a full moon on Halloween!)

Gisele Chouinard of Kingfield was also on the hike and said, “Most inside activities cost money. Not so with outside activities. Showing kids how much fun can be had in the great outdoors is priceless.”

Clubs offer a social connection beyond academics, they create a sense of belonging and build connections between students of different grade levels. Evidence suggests that regular time outdoors is essential to children’s health and happiness. Playing outdoors tends to improve school performance, foster problem-solving and cooperation skills, enhance creativity, and help develop other cognitive abilities. And it is fun! Club activities focus on play, and through that comes learning about oneself, skills in the outdoors, as well as supporting social and emotional growth.

“Teenagers are losing their connection with nature at an accelerated pace,” says Teens to Trails Executive Director, Alicia Heyburn, “but enjoying time outdoors with peers is critical for teenage development. It creates love and care for each other, ourselves, and our planet. We are so pleased to help all high schools in Maine start and sustain outing clubs, because they are a fun way to connect to peers, caring adults and Maine’s outdoors.”

For additional information on Teens to Trails and Outing Clubs, visit www.teenstotrails.org.

 

 

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