We offer a continuum of pre-K to high school, backyard to back country and family integrated environmental education and outdoor recreation programming for Lafayette youth and their families and build parks and pathways to increase access to nature.
Extensive community outreach efforts that engaged more than 200 youth and parents, with a focus on reaching low-income and Latino members of the community, were undertaken in 2016. Community input led to the development of eighty-two programs and six capital construction projects that will help to increase Lafayette’s youth and their families to nature and the outdoors.
NKJN will benefit youth and families in Lafayette with a focus on reaching youth who attend five Boulder Valley School District schools: Sanchez, Pioneer, and Ryan Elementary Schools; Angevine Middle School; and Centaurus High School. There are 39 collaborating and supporting organizations that have signed on to help deliver a scaffolded approach to pre-K to high school, backyard to backcountry, and family-integrated nature and outdoor recreation programing. Programming will include classroom, afterschool, and field trip opportunities as well as summer opportunities that range from family programming to summer camps and employment opportunities. In total, NKJN will deliver more than 46,000 nature experiences totaling in excess of 570,000 participant program hours from the summer of 2017 through the end of the 2022 school year, and hopefully beyond. The total value of this programming will exceed $5 million. In addition to programming, NKJN will invest millions of dollars in multiple capital construction projects on City of Lafayette Open Space and at Pioneer and Sanchez Elementary Schools that are designed to ensure all Lafayette youth live within a safe, 10-minute walk to a nature play space.
Community engagement efforts for the Nature Kids Lafayette program were undertaken to determine the unique needs and desire of Lafayettes’ low-income and Latino youth and their families. The February 2016 NKJN Launch Event engaged 150 participants, built excitement about the program, and identified focus group participants (24 adults, 4 sessions, 8 hours total). Student Focus Groups engaged 36 elementary, 8 middle, and 8 high school children. Key findings were that the community wanted:
PLACES – Close to home; Access to water; Community gathering spaces; Multigenerational amenities
ACCESS – Safe passageways to neighborhood parks and natural areas; Bilingual signage
PROGRAMMING – Introduction/instruction for outdoor activities – learning to become comfortable outdoors; Guided trips to state/national parks and recreational areas; Peak experiences including exploration of backcountry
PATHWAYS TO EMPLOYMENT – School credit for nature/environment programs; Internships and job shadowing opportunities; Summer Employment with skill building opportunities
Read the Community Engagement Report.
Eighty-two environmental education and outdoor recreation and pathway-to- employment programs (delivered within nine categories: Elementary School Programming, Middle School Programming, High School Programming, Summer Programming, Youth Corps, Environmental Education Corps, Service Learning, Family Programming, and Support Programming) valued at $5,184,955 over five years. Together, the 82 programs will provide:
- Integrated and scaffolded pre-K to high school nature/outdoor programming;
- Backyard to backcountry nature/outdoor programming;
- Family integrated nature/outdoor programming;
- School-year programming: in-school, field trips, and afterschool programs focused on the whole child (social emotional awareness – heart, service – hands, place-based – feet, academic – head);
- Summer programming ranging from day camp to peak experience nature/outdoor travel;
- Youth Pathways to employment
- Program referrals to specifically build upon the enthusiasm generated by each programming component and ensure that participants know what the next step is for them to continue building their connection to nature and the outdoors.
NKJN programs, in addition to meeting community identified needs and desires, were designed to correlate with the new Boulder County Environmental Education Guidelines. The guidelines are the first set of guidelines in the nation to promote a whole-child approach to environmental education (EE) and suggest a scaffolded set of activities and learning concepts for students starting with pre-K through high school. The whole-child approach involves engaging kids’ hands (service), heart (social emotional awareness), head (knowledge/academics), and feet (place-based learning), each of which is critical to building nature connection, earth stewardship, and environmental literacy. Beginning in 2017, the five schools participating in the NKJN program will be the first five to pilot a full-scale implementation of the guidelines. Already, the guidelines are being heralded by some leading environmental education experts as the most progressive and complete set of EE guidelines ever drafted.
Six projects, valued at $5,426,933, that together will create an “emerald necklace” network of trails and parks. This network ensures that all youth residing in the city’s low-income neighborhoods live within a safe, 10-minute walk of a nature play space and have safe foot and bike access to the city’s regional trail system and each of the city’s existing high-quality natural areas, including Coal Creek, the Great Park, and Waneka Lake. The six projects are as follows:
Sanchez Elementary Schoolyard – a $1,066,600 project to bring nature and the community to the Sanchez schoolyard;
Sanchez Connector Trail – a $748,000 project to provide connectivity between the low- income neighborhoods surrounding Sanchez Elementary and the school, nearby natural areas and the regional trail system, and Lafayette’s Walk and Wheel route (a designated set of streets and pathways that provide safe walk and bike access throughout the majority of the city);
Pioneer Schoolyard/Outdoor Classroom – a $714,000 project to provide sites for the community to gather in nature, and educational spaces for formal and informal nature exploration;
Coal Creek Connections – a $1,687,353 project to provide nature play opportunities along Coal Creek Corridor, including access to water;
Other Projects (Facilities and Signage) – a $113,410 project to provide expanded opportunities for community gatherings at Waneka Lake, and bilingual signage in parks and open space;
Other Projects (Access) – a $1,097,570 project to build trails, expand sidewalks, add bike lanes, and construct pedestrian crossings to ensure that nature is safely accessible by youth and families living in Lafayette’s low-income neighborhoods.
A key component of the NKJN program is the linkage between the planned nature and outdoor recreation programming, and the proposed capital construction projects. Youth and their families will need safe access to nature and nearby places for outdoor recreation in order to expand upon their newfound enthusiasm for nature and the outdoors, developed through NKJN programming. Further, the newly constructed parks and trails will require that youth and families living nearby have an enthusiasm for nature and the outdoors and an environmental ethic in order to ensure these places are well-loved, but not too well-loved.