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Fun in the Sun: Taking the Classroom Outside

The sun shines brightly as laced-up sneakers of elementary school kids hit the grass and immediately start running to survey the lay the land at the Floyd Lamb Park in Las Vegas. A day of outside learning was possible for the students at Caesars Entertainment’s partner school, Walter V Long, because of Caesars Foundation’s park preservation nonprofit partner, National Park Trust (NPT), who funded the trip. The students earned their field trip to the park by winning the second annual NPT Carbon Reduction Contest where their efforts reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 7,261 lbs and diverted 1,312 lbs of trash!

The school was hosted by Horses4Heros, a nonprofit that has introduced more than 12,000 adults and children to the recreational and health & wellness benefits of interacting with horses. Horses4Heroes Founder and President, Sydney Knott, believes that children today should spend time outdoors and learn and appreciate the patience, responsibility and dedication that it takes to grow crops and raise farm animals. The Horses4Heros team led the children through a circuit of unique nature related activities that cannot be experienced inside or in front of a screen. “Children who spend time playing outdoors learn to use their imaginations,” says Knott, “Spending time outdoors teaches resiliency and coping skills that will stick with you throughout your life.”

The grades were split up and given red, white and blue bandanas to identify the different teams. The circuit led the students around a fish-filled pond, a grassy field where they fed various types of hungry geese, around the park to collect feathers and pinecones for a nature scavenger hunt, and to the stables to walk miniature horses. The field trip ended with lunch in the grass and lots of stories the kids told one another about their day. Dennis Gundlach, Walter Long GATE teacher who led the class in the Carbon Reduction Contest, said the trip made a lasting impact by encouraging the kids to seek FLPout other outdoor activities at the park over the summer.

The park day is part of Caesars’ educational 2016 CodeGreen Challenge campaign, which, this year, features author of Last Child in the Woods author Richard Louv’s “Nature Deficit Disorder,” or NDD. Louv writes about this condition which is essentially kids being deprived of the natural world. The Caesars Foundation has been a partner of NPT for six years, and this year worked to raise awareness about the educational, social and health & wellness benefits of getting outside. Caesars team members and their families took to the outdoors after learning about the risk of separating children from the outdoors through increasingly indoor-focused childhoods.

Caesars has worked with administrators at Walter V Long and NPT to integrate unique green and nature components that support environmental education curriculum. “The partnership that we have with Caesars has completely transformed the environment at Walter Long,” said school Principal Katie Decker, “We know that these environments help our students to engage in meaningful hands on activities that will help to improve their academic and social emotional health.”

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Students will be experiencing the joys of summer as the weather grows warmer and the landscapes turn greener. The students at Walter V Long, and other schools where NPT make an impact on students with environmental curriculums, are likely to want more fun in the sun.

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