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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New website connects youth, parents to outdoors

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The central part of Indiana, prior to settlement, was primarily covered in forest.

Today, with all residential, commercial, industrial and transportation land cover, most of the forest areas have disappeared.

That means many children have lost any association with what forests are or were.

However, a new website, "Finding My Forest," has developed to provide some connections to the forest again.

The site offers interdisciplinary lessons allowing parents, teachers and outdoor educators to connect with children's diverse learning styles.

The free forest conservation educational material and curriculum may be accessed at www.findingmyforest.org.

Today's children have little free time, between school, scheduled activities, television, computers and cell phones.

"Finding My Forest" provides the tools needed to help integrate the wonder of forests right into youth education efforts.

Interested individuals may start by taking a "virtual hike," downloading the curriculum or exploring the rest of the site to find information about forests, what to do when there and ways to connect with other "forest friends."

The material is designed for grades 3-8. The curriculum helps make natural spaces, from the schoolyard outside, to public forests around the country, more relevant to students.

The site offers simple ways to create a classroom blog and link it to the iForest Network Google Map, which connects participating classrooms from across the nation.

The site includes tools and resources from partner organizations.

One area of the site that is particularly fun is the online (by zip code) field guide, at www.enature.com/zipguides/.

It is a great site to learn details about birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, trees, wild flowers, for the area chosen.

Pictures, habitat information and in the case of the birds, interested individuals may even listen to their sounds.

"Finding My Forest" is part of a USDA Forest Service and AdCouncil campaign aimed at connecting children and parents with nature.

For more information about the campaign and other resources, visit www.DiscoverTheForest.org.

Additional conservation education resources from the USDA Forest Service may be accessed at www.na.fs.fed.us.coned/.

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