Christine Scanlan: The value of getting kids outdoors |

Christine Scanlan: The value of getting kids outdoors

by Rep. Christine Scanlan

Who wouldn’t envy a kid growing up in the mountains? There is fresh air to play in, mountains to explore and plants and animals to learn about. This opportunity, however, should not be limited to only those kids who are fortunate enough to reside in the high country. That’s why I’m proud to introduce HB 1131, The Colorado Kids Outdoors Bil,l which will help ensure every child in Colorado has the chance to experience all the natural wonders and opportunity our great state has to offer. The Colorado Kids Outdoors Bill will create a fund supported by gifts, grants and donations (not the Colorado General Fund) which allows donors the ability to have an even greater impact on providing chances for Colorado’s kids to get outside.

Recent studies and other research has shown that on average kids spend more than seven hours a day in front of a video screen, that childhood obesity rates and obesity related illnesses among children as young as 4 years-old is skyrocketing and that parents from high crime areas fear even allowing their kids outside. Contrasting that, we know that kids who spend time outdoors do better in school, are healthier, happier and are more apt to participate in their communities. The truth is that financial barriers for many of Colorado’s children present a real obstacle keeping them from participating in these kinds of positive and potentially life-changing experiences outdoors.

This bill will allow kids from inner-city Denver to explore the majesty of the mountains; it will give kids from the rural areas of Colorado a chance to see parts of the state they have never seen; and will provide all students with educational opportunities that allow them to have hands-on learning experiences using nature as their laboratory. Understanding the science of Colorado’s environment and ecosystems – while emphasizing critical thinking skills, problem-solving and data collection – is essential to 21st century learning.

The bill is a culmination of a lot of work which started last summer with Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien doing a tour of the state looking at ways to get more of Colorado’s kids outside. Since then, we have brought together the best thinking from outdoor recreation enthusiasts, sportsmen’s groups representing the hunting and fishing conservation interests, outdoor experiential education groups, groups that work with disadvantaged kids, child wellness and obesity health care providers, public and private schools, and philanthropic donors. I am especially grateful to the some 23 witnesses, many of whom came down from the high country, to voice their support for the bill including Mrs. Mitchell’s fifth grade class from Summit Cove Elementary, SOS Outreach, Gore Range Science School, Keystone Science School, the Vail Recreation District, Colorado Youth Outdoors, Colorado Youth Corps, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, and the Vail Nature Center, among many others. The bill passed with bi-partisan support out of the House Education Committee and we still have the appropriation committee and the House Floor to go before it moves on to the Senate where Sen. Dan Gibbs will serve as the sponsor. I am honored to carry this legislation and hopeful of the difference I expect the Colorado Kids Outdoors Act to bring to a generation of kids who represent the future stewards of our state and our future leaders.

Christine Scanlan is State Representative for Colorado House District 56, which includes Summit County.