Boeing Company grant will help Inside the Outdoors add animal ambassadors, increase access

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Inside the Outdoors Foundation, which oversees OCDE’s long-running environmental education program, has been awarded a $75,000 grant from The Boeing Company to help rebuild its animal ambassador lineup and to increase community access to environmental education experiences. 

With the investment, Boeing says it aims to “develop tomorrow’s innovators through programs focused on STEM education and on the 21st-century skills required in today’s modern workplace.”

Inside the Outdoors has been a leader in hands-on science and social science education since 1974. Administered by the Orange County Department of Education, its mission is to empower students, teachers, parents and the community to explore natural areas while expanding knowledge and stewardship of the environment.

Boeing’s “BEST: Building Environmental Stewards for Tomorrow” grant will give about 8,500 students in underserved communities the chance to participate in ITO’s Traveling Scientist program, which pairs classes of students with program naturalists to engage in hands-on, standards-based STEM learning. Popular Traveling Scientist lessons include “Creature Feature,” “Drip Drop” and “Next Generation Water Leaders.”

Meanwhile, Boeing will also help grow Inside the Outdoors’ popular animal ambassador team, which has often been featured in Traveling Scientist programs. 

“Live animals provide a memorable learning experience and strengthen feelings of empathy and compassion related to local conservation efforts,” OCDE STEM Administrator Holly Steele said.

In December 2020, all but four of ITO’s animal ambassadors were lost in the devastating Bond Fire that swept through Silverado Canyon. Funds from Boeing will support the acquisition of up to 25 birds, mammals and reptiles, along with safe habitats, bedding, food and other necessities.

“The new ambassadors will help students form connections with our local fauna as they work to become stewards of our local resources and ecosystems,” Steele said.

Grant funds will further support engaging youth and community volunteers in local and regional service learning projects that connect local issues, such as solid waste pollution, to regional issues, like the health of beaches. Families will also be encouraged to learn together through simple activities that extend student learning.

For more information on Inside the Outdoors, visit