Urban Nature Overnights partner with agencies who serve low-income youth to offer third to fifth graders a chance to experience the natural world, develop an appreciation of public lands and learn about wildlife conservation and stewardship issues.
Many children spend little to no time in nature. Besides any health problems this creates, children who lack firsthand experiences in the natural world are ill prepared as adults to make decisions regarding the environment.
The zoo partners with the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and NW Natural to bring the joys of overnight camping to kids who have not had access to outdoor experiences. At the zoo or in local nature parks, kids in grades three to five learn recreation skills and environmental concepts. By touching, hearing, smelling, seeing and even tasting, they discover why it's not only vital, but also fun to understand and respect urban and wild ecosystems. Campers are taught by zoo UNO staff and Zoo Animal Presenters, teens who work at the zoo, learning and teaching about natural science.
During the school year, UNO offers 8-week after-school programs at agencies and some Portland schools to enhance lessons learned at UNO during the summer. The program gladly accepts students with disabilities or for whom English is a second language.
Benefits of UNO
Through their 24-hour immersion in the natural world, children begin to develop:
- outdoor skills, ethics and safety awareness
- an understanding of the interconnectedness of living things
- respect for the outdoor world
- skills to explore the world of nature
- cooperative skills and teamwork
- receive a water bottle, journal and UNO T-shirt
- set up tents and a campsite
- prepare meals with camp stoves
- experience activities such as hiking, nature scavenger hunts and campfire songs
- learn about native plants and animals and their interactions within an ecosystem
- learn the "leave no trace" philosophy for outdoor recreation
- enjoy structured and unstructured time in nature
All equipment is provided including some items generously donated by Columbia Sportswear Company.
Jody Van Riper