On Thursday, Oct. 26, Inside the Outdoors and the Anaheim Elementary School District led a group of 54 learners — parents, to be specific — on a wildlife-filled adventure through Santiago Oaks Regional Park in Orange.
In an effort to make environmental education more accessible for families, Inside the Outdoors began collaborating with the district’s School, Family and Community Engagement department in 2016 to provide parents with opportunities to explore nature through the perspective of students rather than chaperones.
For nearly 50 years, Inside the Outdoors — administered by the Orange County Department of Education — has promoted environmental literacy in Orange County classrooms while providing lessons for students and families to explore nature firsthand.
“We emphasize to parents on these trips that we see each of their children through our programs and our work is about having every student get outdoor experience,” said Yarib Dheming, school and community outreach manager for Inside the Outdoors. “The community engagement staff at AESD has been a great team for family engagement, so we thought, let’s work to get parents outdoors.”
Since first embarking on this community-focused project, the program has teamed up with the district to host six outdoor excursions visiting OC sites including Irvine Regional Park and Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.
At Santiago Oaks, OCDE’s field naturalists led parents on hikes throughout the park, introduced them to native Southern California species and gave the group a closer look at the activities their children are offered through class trips.
Each parent followed along with educational worksheets in hand as they learned about the plant and animal species they encountered. While traversing the trails, program staff guided the group through different stations to learn the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind different environmental characteristics before meeting the program’s animal ambassadors.
Dheming, who helped organize and host the field trip, said the parents seemed to love learning about the park and “got a kick out of seeing the animals as much as the kids do.”
District staff were joined on the trip by Superintendent Dr. Chris Downing, who welcomed families and shared how exposure to new species through this program has left a positive impact on him.
“Our partnership with Inside the Outdoors opens doors to outdoor education for AESD families,” Dr. Downing said. “It’s all about connecting parents with their children’s learning and fostering a deeper appreciation for the environment. This collaboration embodies our commitment to an enriched, vibrant community and a brighter future for our students.”
In addition to its work with the Anaheim Elementary School District, Inside the Outdoors also collaborated with the REACH Foundation to introduce outdoor education programs to families in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District through the “Experience Your Environment” event on Oct. 28.
As more parents get involved with the annual field trips, Inside the Outdoors staff plans to organize similar gatherings and further connect families to what students are learning in class and in nature.
Orange County districts and schools interested in partnering with Inside the Outdoors and bringing environmental education resources into their community can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.