OPRA Connection

Many challenges confront youth-serving organizations. Limited budgets have required many to reduce program offerings. Staff may struggle to balance developing creative programs with staffing of facilities and managing administrative responsibilities. Cultural or financial barriers may prevent successful access to programs or activities by groups not normally served.

Meanwhile, parents and communities are increasingly reliant on services provided by these organizations, seeking safe places and positive learning experiences for their children in the out-of-school hours.

Many youth, particularly in urban areas, do not have the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities. By experiencing nature and developing interests in outdoor pursuits, youth gain an appreciation of natural resources and wild places. They learn the skills to enjoy nature in all its seasons.

From the hobbies and experiences gained as a child, adults will be more likely to utilize and support the resources and programs provided by park districts and recreation agencies.

Forming Connections

One creative solution to meet these needs is the formation of a partnership that brings together the resources and expertise of collaborating organizations.

Two Ohio park districts and Ohio 4-H Youth Development have formed separate and unique partnerships in which young people connect with the natural environment.

Youth Outdoors, a partnership between Cleveland Metroparks and Ohio 4-H, offers urban youth ages 8-18 years the opportunity to participate in outdoor adventure recreation programs. Activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, camping, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, nature exploration, teambuilding and community service provide youth the opportunity to gain valuable life skills and an appreciation of the natural world.

Children become involved in Youth Outdoors through the City of Cleveland Division of Recreation, faith-based organizations and other nonprofit agencies. Youth Outdoors provided 438 programs in 2003, reaching 2,618 youth. Total attendance for 2003 was 7,273 youth and adults.

Serving youth in west Dayton, Adventure Central is a partnership between Five Rivers MetroParks and Ohio 4-H. Youth ages 5-18 utilize the Adventure Central education center as a hub for out-of-school time activities.

Their programming models focus on environmental education and include an after-school program, summer day camps, open computer labs, subject matter clubs, a youth board and an overnight camp.

Youth at Adventure Central spend time with volunteers reading, getting help with homework and working on hands-on projects while forming positive relationships with caring adults. Sixty youth each attended over 100 days at Adventure Central in 2003. Total attendance was 16,862 youth and adults.

In these cooperative efforts, the resources and expertise of each partner provide the basis for the type and depth of the established programs.

Both park districts have experience in delivering quality nature education and outdoor recreation programs. Their park reservations and facilities are designed for youth to explore their connection with the natural world.

For Youth Outdoors and Adventure Central, the park districts provide the operating support necessary for permanent staff and consistent programming.

Within Youth Outdoors, Cleveland Metroparks and Ohio 4-H share the leadership for long-range planning, program evaluation, risk management and youth group development.

Cleveland Metroparks administers the department’s program schedule and delivery, budget, purchasing, human resources, office and storage facilities, and equipment maintenance.

4-H facilitates the volunteer involvement (recruitment, screening, training, utilization and recognition) and programming that increases the potential for positive youth development, such as self-responsibility, interpersonal relationship skills, and commitment to community.

In both partnerships, the development of 4-H clubs provides small groups of youth the opportunity to progressively gain greater knowledge and commitment toward specific areas of interest.

Clubs encourage youth to engage in community service and gain the skills necessary to become involved in their community in meaningful ways.

To ensure activities are safe, educational and fun, volunteers are involved in a variety of roles. At Adventure Central, volunteers assist in the leadership of afterschool and evening programs, summer day camps, computer lab instruction and other activities.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Kids Are Getting Outdoors More
  2. Craft Connection
  3. Junior Anglers Of Ohio Camp
  4. More People Are Playing Outdoors
  5. Climbing & Adventure Resources
  • Columns
  • Departments