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PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: Sharing the Spark
California-Nevada Offices , July 9, 2013
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Region 8 Schoolyard Habitat Program Coordinator, Carolyn Kolstad, instructing students from Orangevale K-8 about aquatic pond life.
Region 8 Schoolyard Habitat Program Coordinator, Carolyn Kolstad, instructing students from Orangevale K-8 about aquatic pond life. - Photo Credit: USFWS

“We’ve got the whole world in our hands” sang the entire kindergarten class from Orangevale Open K-8 School as they circled around the early morning campfire at Camp Lodestar. Campers were weary, but cheerful before departing from their first overnight field trip, where they learned and played hard and grew up in ways that can only happen by these types of experiences out in nature.

In just 24 hours students had the opportunity to gallivant through an open meadow, meander between the trees on a solo hike and whisk, scoop and gasp at the dinosaur-like invertebrates that taunted them from the pond! It’s these moments out in nature where children learn confidence, feel joy and create lasting friendships that spark a sense of wonder for the outdoors that many children take with them into adulthood where they become environmental conservationists.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encourages all employees to participate in these types of activities where they can share their knowledge and love for nature with kids through its Connecting People with Nature (CPWN) Initiative. Through this initiative each employee in the Pacific Southwest Region can engage in up to 8 hours of CPWN time outside of their regular job schedule. 

It’s not just fun. Children, as well as adults, benefit from time outdoors. Youth who are given a chance to interact with nature on a regular basis demonstrate increases in academic ability, greater self-esteem and lower instances of health issues related to physical inactivity. This is much of the reason why as part of the Orangevale Open philosophy that each grade participates in an overnight camp each school year.

Carolyn Kolstad, Pacific Southwest Region's Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator, witnessed first-hand on the trip to Camp Lodestar just what it means for the students and parents to participate in this shared experience and what her donation of time and love of nature means to them. “Your enthusiasm and love for what you do is contagious” said Judy, one of the moms assigned to help out with the pond instruction. “What else is in that bag of yours? An elephant?” chimed one of the dads as Carolyn orchestrated a hands-on game of animal charades, complete with animal skins, skulls and antlers of local wildlife species.

The children’s thanks came more in the form of giggles of laughter, squeals of excitement and hugs of joy. The feeling is mutual. There is no greater joy than knowing the spark, the love of nature, has been ignited anew.


Contact Info: Carolyn Kolstad, (530) 889-2308 , carolyn_kolstad@fws.gov



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