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The Get Outside BC Project: Inspiring BC’s youth to get outside!

“Get Outside BC has surpassed my wildest dreams. It has changed my life and given me so much hope, confidence, and inspiration.”  - Debrah Zemanek, 16, Get Outside BC 2011 participant

With urban migration, fewer youth in Canada get to experience our great outdoors. For CPAWS, that means a whole generation disconnected from the wilderness that we need them to champion as they grow up. We need to save wilderness; we also need to foster its defenders.

This summer, I had the privilege of returning to work with youth as part of my role at CPAWS-BC. As a past environmental educator, the Get Outside BC Project – a project designed to inspire youth to get other youth outside – was an incredibly exciting opportunity. We brought 40 students, from every corner of British Columbia, to Squamish to explore their connection to nature. They hiked through forests of thousand year old cedars, met green mentors to learn about green jobs, learned important outdoor skills, planned their own outdoor events and discussed how they personally can improve youth’s connection to the outdoors.

In honour of International Youth Day in August, the students planned and hosted events in their communities -- everything from outdoor concerts to multi-day camping trips with friends. The primary goal of these events was to inspire youth in their communities to get outside and appreciate nature. All of the youth recognized a common trend in their communities: their friends and peers are spending much less time outdoors and more time indoors. Facebook, texting and other dependencies on technology have replaced exploring nearby forests and creeks after school.

Rather than providing a one-time experience, Get Outside BC aims to provide youth with the tools and resources to develop a long-lasting connection to BC’s natural heritage and a lifelong identity as an ambassador for the wilderness. Participants will be reuniting in their regions in October to discuss the successes and challenges of their events and plan for the future. It’s our hope that these students will carry on conservation efforts and public education in their communities. Since the project began, many already have!

Check out our Get Outside BC video to see photos and hear personal testimonies from the students.

Get Outside BC! 2011 Natural Leaders Summit from Child & Nature Alliance on Vimeo.

Written by Elyse Curley, CPAWS BC