Getting Kids Outdoors

canoe kids

You can make a difference!

Ijams Nature Center believes that being outdoors and experiencing nature is an important part of being a kid. Many of the children in the East Tennessee region don’t have the access or the ability to fully enjoy Ijams’ wonderful parks and green spaces.

In an effort to make the outdoors accessible to a wider audience of children, Ijams started the Getting Kids Outdoors program in 2014. Partnering with the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and River Sports Outfitters, we were thrilled to develop an entire summer of outdoor programs that were offered to the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley free of charge.

Generous funding from the West Knoxville Sertoma Club allowed us to expand the program for the rest of the 2014 summer and even the summer of 2015. To date, over 500 kids have participated in week-long nature and recreation experiences at Ijams Nature Center.

Almost all participants are new to outdoor activities. Ijams Nature Center is located in an area where approximately 60% of the school-age children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many have little to no exposure to outdoor activities that require expensive equipment and may also have limited access to naturalists who can foster their developing passion for nature and environmental education.

During their time at Ijams, campers learn about the safe and proper use of outdoor recreation equipment such as bikes, climbing walls, kayaks, paddle boards and camping gear. They will learn “Leave No Trace” practices, which will empower them to be wise stewards of the parks and trails they visit. In addition, part of each camp day will be spent participating in environmental education activities to help them gain an understanding of their role in protecting the environment.

In addition to a fantastic nature-based camp, this year we were able to incorporate a Healthy Eating program into camp. A generous grant from the Siddiqi Charitable Foundation allowed us to hire a summer intern to prepare local, sustainable healthy lunches and snacks for all participants. Campers were introduced to new produce and proteins through familiar items like pizza and burritos. All the ingredients were local, humanely-raised, and sustainable. Whenever possible, produce was organic. Wholesome food not only fueled their bodies, but also minimized behavioral challenges that can arise when kids are hungry.

Ijams is committed to providing these immersive outdoor experiences to a traditionally under-served audience of children that would not otherwise have this opportunity. It is our hope that the knowledge and excitement that they gain during their time at Ijams will put them on a life-long journey of learning more about the outdoors, planting the seed that will become an ethic of stewardship that they can carry with them into adulthood.

How can I help?

You can  support the Getting Kids Outdoors campaign by donating online. We are proud to announce that we have funded this program through the summer of 2016! But we’re not done… we want to find a way to continue this program for years to come, and every little bit helps!

To donate, click here.

A Huge Thanks!

Programs like this don’t happen without the generous support of our community. Generous donations have allowed us to purchase spare clothing and shoes, supplement the campers’ food throughout the day, and even provide tote bags and water bottles for each camper. The overwhelming generosity of our neighbors and visitors has been inspiring!

River Sports Outfitters
West Knoxville Sertoma Club
Siddiqi Charitable Foundation
South Knoxville Alliance
Amputee Coalition