Getting Kids on the Trails

Some Educational and Interpretive Approaches

Fresh ideas that will get more children off couches and into nature.

by Roger Bell, Trails Consultant, Pam Johnson, Program Administrator, Rancho Sonado, Jennifer Rigby, Director, The Acorn Group


This session features the collaborative work of a trail designer/builder, an outdoor education program administrator, and an interpretive planner/designer. They will share experiences of watching synergy at work on trails, ways to make trails and open space areas interesting and fun for youth, how trails can be designed for use in outdoor education, and how interpretive media on trails invite younger audiences to explore their world more fully. Session includes an overview of where environmental education has been and where it is headed with implications for trail planning. Our hope is to generate fresh ideas that will get more children off couches and into nature.

About the Authors

Roger Bell, PhD, a Californian and former college administrator, just sold his trail contracting business after some 40 years designing and building trails in 14 states. Past President of the Professional Trailbuilders Association, he has been a Board member of American Trails since 1996 and recently authored Trail Tales, a book of poems about his adventures as well as articles about kids and trails.

Pam Johnson is the program administrator at Rancho Sonado, one of the Orange County California schools of Inside the Outdoors, a separately funded program of the County Department of Education. Students come to this day camp where the learning takes place outdoors at learning stations on trails. Pam is an expert in environmental education for kids. (Roger worked with Pam to help restore and build new trails at Rancho Sonado after a recent fire.)

Contact:

Jennifer Rigby is a board member of American Trails and director of The Acorn Group, an award-winning interpretive planning and design firm. For over 25 years she has created interpretive master plans and media for trail systems in a variety of settings: windswept dunes, ancient redwood groves, arid deserts, cypress swamps, and hardwood forests. Regardless of where a project takes her, her focus is on creating meaningful experiences for visitors with a variety of media including wayfinding systems and interpretive panels. See her previous American Trails webinar on interpretation titled “Telling a Better Story: Best practices for developing interpretive panels for trails.”

Jenny’s background includes interpretive master planning; teaching in formal and non-formal institutions, including zoos and aquaria; interpretive writing; exhibit and graphic design; and visitor studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social ecology, master’s degree in education, and two California teaching credentials. Certified by the National Association for Interpretation as an interpretive planner, Jenny has been working in the field of interpretation since 1982.

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