New Year's Message from Executive Director, Bryan Martin
As we look ahead to 2023, I first want to thank our fantastic community of supporters for a momentous 2022. There’s a new energy building around Outdoor Lab because of you and the strategic direction we are taking at the Foundation. Last year was notable for the impact, progress, and reconnection we made for students, teachers, and the schools at Outdoor Lab. You are part of a growing movement that is gaining the momentum it deserves. I am proud of our accomplishments, and I am filled with hope for the year ahead knowing that we have your support.
Time outside is not just a nicety; it is a necessity. We firmly believe in the power of nature to help children reach their full potential and that a regular connection to the natural world is essential for children’s healthy development. At Outdoor Lab, this starts with the sixth-grade experience and progresses on to more meaningful connections as high school leaders and interns.
As we move into 2023, we will stay focused on the organization’s most important priorities as documented in our Strategic Plan. All our major initiatives and activities will ladder up to the goals and objectives in this plan as we believe it is the best way to achieve our mission and vision at the Foundation.
We are particularly excited about the following three endeavors:
We’re thrilled to advance our Career Pathways Program for our high school students who support Outdoor Lab so meaningfully. This initiative stems from the “Student Leadership” track of our strategic plan and seeks to recognize and incentivize the High School Leaders and Interns for their service to Outdoor Lab. These young adult mentors serve as instructors, teacher aids, role models, and land stewards to ensure the smooth operation of the program and a safe and impactful experience for all. The Career Pathways Program will offer learning modules, webinars, and certification opportunities to tangibly enhance their resumes so they're prepared for their next job in the outdoors. It will also create a referral network and connection space for them to engage with community-based employers and outdoor industry leaders.
We are actively recruiting volunteers to serve as school liaisons and support on-campus activities such as volunteer workdays and evening presentations. Our Community Outreach Program stems from the “Community Relevance” pillar of our strategic plan and will ensure students, families, and teachers are supported in their preparations and planning for Outdoor Lab. Moreover, our outreach efforts will support High School Counselors in their recruitment of Leaders and Interns from all 17 area High Schools. Making sure every Outdoor Lab experience is as safe, welcoming, and impactful as possible for every student no matter which neighborhood or articulation area they live in is a major theme of our work in 2023.
We will document, in a statistically rigorous way, the social-emotional learning that takes place while sixth graders are at Outdoor Lab. Recently the Foundation received a grant from the Children and Nature Network to implement an SEL survey across multiple schools attending Outdoor Lab. We have known intuitively for decades that time outside has physical, mental, and social benefits. Using data collected from these surveys we will be able to document these benefits more specifically in our students and make an even stronger case for why Outdoor Lab is so vitally important to our community. This initiative advances our “Listen and Learn” objective within our strategic plan.
These are just a few examples of the work we’re doing in 2023 to sustain and enhance the Outdoor Lab campuses and the Outdoor Lab experience overall for students and teachers. Of course, we cannot do this work without you, our generous donors and partners. Thank you for investing in young people in Jeffco, and for supporting their many needs. Because of you, we can fulfill our mission and connect more young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves.
Executive Director | Outdoor Lab Foundation