PIQUA — Local students and school employees captured the attention of a growing movement with their love nature and going outdoors — so much so they were first school in Ohio to receive a new type of award for it.
Springcreek Elementary School received a special honor Monday morning when the Miami County Park District presented a “Best School in Ohio Connect to Nature Award” to students and staff. Springcreek was the first in Ohio and the U.S. to receive this designation. In order to receive it, the school had to meet a set of criteria established by the Leave No Child Inside: Miami Valley Collaborative (MVLNCI) and Dayton Regional Green (DRG).
Those criteria included:
• Promote students developing the habit of being physically active and playing outside daily
• Provide outdoor experiences every day for all students
• Encourage outside play for our students and their families, provide and communicate ideas, and develop a recognition program
• Provide inspiration to experience the outdoors with posters or other medium in the school and for families
The Leave No Child Inside movement and this challenge was inspired by journalist Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods” and co-founder of the International Children and Nature Network.
“He is the inspiration behind this very formal award you guys are winning today,” Cinda Hanbuch-Pinkerton, director of Education at the Miami County Park District, said about Louv. He spoke to students and school employees via Skype Monday morning.
Prior to Louv talking to students, Hanbuch-Pinkerton and Doug Horvath, a naturalist at Five Rivers MetroParks, continued to encourage the kids to go outside to play and explore nature.
“When you’re outside, you’re happier, you’re healthier, and you’re smarter,” Hanbuch-Pinkerton said.
Along with Horvath came Ruby, a red-tailed hawk he called “the ambassador to the natural world.” Horvath said that one of her wings was injured, leaving Ruby unable to hunt by herself.
“We’re all working so hard with your help to get more and more kids outside,” Horvath said. Horvath said that he and Ruby had a message for the kids, saying, “Go outside and explore and find out wonderful things on planet Earth.” Horvath also added that he and Ruby were proud of the students.
Hanbuch-Pinkerton then introduced Louv, who congratulated the students and spoke about the benefits of children going outside.
“I’ve written and I’ve spoken a lot about the connection between children and nature and how … science now shows us that just a little bit of contact with the natural world makes kids happier and healthier and smarter. Test scores even go up,” Louv said.
Louv also encouraged the kids to keep going outside.
“It takes you, kids, to encourage other kids to go outside … Kids need to be connected to nature. You’re part of a much bigger movement,” Louv said. “You can be a leader in the Children in Nature movement, and you already are.”
School and local officials also spoke after Louv’s encouraging words.
“We have been given a very huge gift to our school outside,” Jennifer Everett, gifted intervention specialist at Springcreek, said about the donation of land from John Garbry at the school. “We should be very good stewards of this land.”
Springcreek Principal Connie Strehle spoke about how they plan to create sitting areas for students outside so that more classes can be held outside in the future during good weather.
“I think next year when we come back you’ll find it’s going to be more friendly to go outside to read,” Strehle said. “We want you to go outside more.”
City of Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds also commended the school and continued to promote going outside.
“We live so much better when we get outside in nature,” Hinds said. “Get out in nature as often as you can.”
The school then brought all of the students outside to view a new banner on display honoring their achievement.
In addition to the “Connect to Nature School” award, there will be “A Best in Ohio — Connect to Nature Site” awards presented to the following: Miami County Park District for Stillwater Prairie Reserve, Five Rivers Metro Parks for the Englewood MetroPark, Darke County Park District for Shawnee Prairie Preserve, and the Little Hearts Daycare.
Representatives from the following organizations were also in attendance at Monday’s event at Springcreek: Miami County Park District, Dark County Park District, Five Rivers MetroParks, Piqua Local School District, Springcreek Elementary School, Leave No Child Inside: Miami Valley Collaborative, Dayton Children’s Hospital, and Little Hearts Daycare.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336