This award honors efforts to engage children and youth in outdoor experiences using trails. Creative interpretive, educational, and/or recreational design components are included along with innovative programs which stimulate children's imagination and promote their interest in and appreciation for the natural environment while developing healthy lifestyles.
Jeff Falyn and Lyndsay Dawkins have been reaching out to inspire hundreds of local youths and teens through an new program called “Home Place Adventures.”
In 2006, the nonprofit conservation organization Tuleyome created a Summer Youth Outdoor Exploration program that was initially designed to provide rafting activities for underserved youth. This program has evolved, and now in 2012, there is a new focus, adding environmental and community-based themes to a variety of different types of outings. Home Place Adventures includes three main focuses: the Youth Outdoor Exploration Program, Nature’s Theater, and Tuleyome Trails.
The Youth Outdoor Exploration Program of “Home Place Adventures” offers diverse outdoor experiences to underserved youth for the purpose of helping them develop an environmental ethic and an active rather than sedentary lifestyle. Youth participate in outdoor activities that focus on nature awareness, sustainable living concepts, leadership skills and community giving projects.
This year during a twelve-week period, Jeff and Lyndsay ran eighteen outings and more than 400 youth attended, mostly ranging in age from 11-17. Some of the kids who participated had never hiked before, never experienced splashing in a lake, and had no idea what happened to the garbage they put in the dumpster.
Lyndsay Dawkins believes that “teens want to belong, but with few opportunities to connect to positive role models, they usually look elsewhere. Often ‘elsewhere‘is an unhealthy option, and both the youth and the community suffer. When youth connect to their surroundings and environmental issues via shared experiences with peers and mentors, they feel included, develop a sense of purpose and become involved community members.”
On June 29th, fifty-six youth from the Youth Outdoor Exploration Program visited the 130-acre Cache Creek Nature Preserve in Woodland, CA. The focus of this hike was nature awareness. They hiked and explored Cache Creek, and participated in a scavenger hunt where they looked for riparian mammals, birds’ nests and a a variety of diverse plants.
Later on in the summer, twenty-five youth went on a “Leadership Challenge” hike. On this outing the youth honed their leadership skills, engaged in in lively discussions about what leadership means, and participated in different survival scenarios.
Towards the end of July, thirty-five youth hiked the Trail along the creek at the U.C. Davis Arboretum. The focus of this hike was community giving, leadership skills, and career choices. Along the way they met mentors who shared stories about how nature shaped them into the successful people they are today. The youth felt valued, as prominent members of the community stepped up to share their amazing stories.
The second program under “Home Place Adventures” is Nature’s Theater, which opens up the outdoor world to play and exploration. Through story, Nature’s Theater helps kids experience the natural world the way past generations experienced the world -- first hand, with joy and wonder. The stories are easy to learn and are usually led by 2-4 teenagers or adults. Teenagers love taking on the role of leader and mentoring the younger children. As children participate in an interactive story and meet costumed characters, their senses are heightened. On a typical Nature’s Theater outing, kids go outside on a quest to solve a riddle or mystery and in doing so they learn more about their surroundings.
The third program included in “Home Place Adventures” is Tuleyome Trails. This is a volunteer run program that leads local hikes, builds and maintains trails, and works on land stewardship projects. These projects include weed and invasive species eradication on Cache Creek. Tuleyome Trails also provides a website designed to show people where they can hike in the area. This includes GPS files, maps, images of the region, and other information about this amazing wild landscape of which we are a part.
Jeff Falyn and Lyndsay Dawkins deserve the “Kids and Trails Award” for their outstanding service to youth in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. Together, they have expanded Tuleyome’s Youth Program and established “Home Place Adventures,” a new program that emphasizes nature awareness, leadership skills, career ideas, sustainable living, and community giving.
Some of the kids who participated this summer had never hiked before, didn’t know how garbage was processed, and didn’t know what a wonderfully diverse landscape is all around them. Jeff and Lyndsay have transformed Tuleyome’s summer rafting program into an innovative year-round program that promotes healthy lifestyles, and teaches teens and youth an appreciation for the outdoors and our natural resources. They have helped children get outside, participate in physical activities and learn many wonderful things about nature and their environment.