County Examples

Nature Explorer Program

San Diego County, Calif.

The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) was awarded a Habitat Conservation Fund grant through the state of California and was used to implement a Nature Explorers Program (NEP) in 2014. The NEP aims to foster and inspire generations of environmental stewards by connecting youth to nature. Camping, hiking and community service learning projects in County-owned spaces offer outdoor experiential learning opportunities. NEP participants learn about human impact on the environment and how individuals can positively impact the environment through preservation and protection efforts. The NEP goals are to increase participants’ access to wildlife activity areas, increase environmental knowledge leading to academic improvements, promote healthy and active lifestyles, and foster environmental stewards that value nature and the environment. This is accomplished through a tiered program that meets the needs of different age groups within the target communities; Jr. Explorers for 4th and 5th grade students, Rec Explorers for youth 10 to 18 years old, and Nature Mentors for youth 13 to 18 years old. Through the use of science inquiry, hands-on learning and guided instruction, students learn about ecological concepts and share moments of discovery in the outdoors, many for the first time. Topics include ecology, geology, plants of San Diego county, insects, birding basics and Native American history. The Jr. Explorers program includes pre-field trip teacher training and park ranger classroom visits, class field trips to the park and post field trip activities for classroom and home use. In order to help our youth become environmentally literate, the Nature Explorer lesson plans are focused around five concepts: physical and ecological systems, social/cultural systems, environmental issues, multiple solutions to environmental issues and citizen action strategies. Engaging outdoor lessons teach environmental sustainability, pollution prevention, and resource conservation and recycling. All of these subjects are aligned with California science, health, and history-social science standards.

Ms. Lindsay Palmer 
CAO Staff Officer

About 100 Brilliant Ideas at Work

Counties play an essential role in keeping America’s communities healthy, vibrant and safe. With public and private sector partners, we pursue innovative approaches to advance public health and well-being, protect public safety and foster economic strength and resiliency. Counties anticipate and adapt to challenges by thinking outside the box and demonstrating local leadership that makes a difference in people’s lives.

Under the leadership of NACo Immediate Past President Bryan Desloge, NACo embarked on an initiative to identify and share 100 examples of visionary county leadership that results in improving residents’ quality of life. Through this initiative, NACo worked with county leaders and partners to share best practices that bolster our nation’s ability to thrive county by county.

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