The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is providing $4.5 million in No Child Left Inside grants to 73 projects across the state.

Spokesperson Susan Zemek said the goal of the grant program is to target kids that are having difficulty getting outdoors for whatever reason.

"Perhaps they are disabled, or low income, or they are learning English as a second language." stated Zemek, "Maybe they come from families that just don't support that kind of lifestyle."

Zemek added that the benefits of getting kids outside include better fitness, lower stress, improved grades and sometimes help with mental health issues.

While no projects were approved in Douglas, Grant or Okanogan counties, five organizations in Chelan County received over $221,000.

The projects are as follows:

Cascade Columbia Fish Enhancement Group Grant Awarded: $24,930
Engaging Students in Watershed Stewardship

Cascade Columbia Fish Enhancement Group will use this grant to support outdoor experiences for 215 students in 38 field experiences as part of its Watching Over the Watershed (WOW) program. The program instills in participants a lifelong appreciation of the outdoors and an active role in protecting threatened and endangered fish and their habitats. Through a partnership with Quincy Innovation Academy and Icicle River Middle School, this program combines classroom learning with stewardship. This partnership provides year-round outdoor experiences and enhances the science and math curricula, creates self-led project learning, and exposes participants to real-world career experience. During this 2-year project, the enhancement group will provide 5,970 student hours of youth outdoor programming with 86 percent of that time spent on stewardship activities.

Cascadia Conservation District Grant Awarded: $75,000
Supporting Watershed Wonders Programming

The Cascadia Conservation District will use this grant to support its Kids in the Creek and Kids in the Forest programs. These programs provide 3,600 middle and high school students from Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan Counties with a full day outdoors investigating forest and streams of north central Washington. The district also will use the grant to create a new program, Ridge to River, which will give 160 students the chance to spend an additional 4 days investigating the Wenatchee River and Entiat River watersheds during different seasons. The goal is to increase student understanding of the local environment and create a positive attitude towards the outdoors. These programs serve highly vulnerable and marginalized populations of low-income families, English language learners, and Hispanic ethnicity. The Cascadia Conservation District will contribute $25,000 in cash, a state appropriation, and donated labor.

Washington State University Extension, Chelan County Grant Awarded: $26,904
Providing Equipment and a Teacher for the Eco-Stewardship Program

Washington State University Extension in Chelan and Douglas Counties will use this grant to hire a teacher and provide equipment for its 4-H Eco-Stewardship program, which is a year-round, hands-on, outdoor, environmental science program for youth aged 12-19 years. The program’s goals are to cultivate lifelong outdoor recreation habits in youth and foster their development into educated environmental stewards. The youth join natural resource science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals from community-based organizations to complete outdoor service-learning projects, data collection, and recreational activities including backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, and ropes courses. The grant will buy protective equipment, such as helmets, provide incentives to complete surveys, and pay for computing technology, travel, and the salary of an experiential educator. Washington State University Extension will contribute $296,093 in donated equipment.

Wenatchee River Institute Grant Awarded: $69,904
Expanding the Traveling Naturalist in the Classroom Program

The Wenatchee River Institute will use this grant to expand its Traveling Naturalist in the Classroom program to a new grade level, benefiting 500 youth over 2 years. The institute’s naturalist staff will visit schools monthly and each fifth-grade class will participate in a yearly field trip to the institute or public land near their schools for a day of outdoor learning. At schools, outdoor activities will be environmental education lessons, including nature journaling, observation, and educational games. On the field trip, outdoor activities will include hiking as well as place-based environmental, outdoor education lessons. The goal of the Traveling Naturalist in the Classroom program is to help students develop their sense of place in their community, their skills and knowledge of the natural sciences, their interest in science careers, and their appreciation, wonder, and curiosity for the natural world. Wenatchee River Institute will contribute $81,306 in staff labor, a private grant, and donations of equipment, labor, and
materials.

Wenatchee School District Grant Awarded: $24,882
Teaching Mountain Biking to Underserved Youth

Wenatchee High School will use the grant to introduce 176 underserved youth to mountain biking. With 51 percent of students coming from low-income families, the high school will begin offering biking as part of its school fitness program. The course will begin by teaching students basic skills. Students then will learn introductory mountain bike skills at a new skills park within biking distance of the school. To culminate, students will receive instruction from Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance instructors at Squilchuck State Park just outside of Wenatchee where students will spend the day riding park trails. Wenatchee School District will contribute $23,220 in cash, staff labor, and a local grant.