Idaho’s first Nature Explore classroom featured on local NBC affiliate

I’ll admit I was somewhat surprised to receive a phone call earlier this month about Funshine Early Childhood in Idaho Falls. It was among the first times we’d been asked about a Nature Explore classroom before even sending out the press release.

3FUNSHINESnaturescapeFunshine’s certification was definitely news worthy – the center, owned and operated by Kathy Reynolds – is the first Nature Explore Classroom in the state of Idaho.

Nature Explore is a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation developed in response to the growing disconnect between children and nature.

Reynolds began constructing the classroom after attending a Nature Explore training with educational services director Julie Rose. She posted an article in a local magazine, inviting friends, local businesses, civic leaders and the mayor to attend a groundbreaking event at her home, where she shared her vision.

The result is wonderfully captured in last week’s News Channel 6 segment showing children learning and playing in a creative outdoor learning space.

“There is a huge increase in childhood obesity because they are not getting outside,” Reynolds tells New Channel 6′s Summer Joy. She continues:

Unless they are outside learning and exploring a garden or harvesting what we grow, playing on rocks and boulders, balance on logs, they are not going to gain an appreciation for nature. They are the future – they are the ones that are going to be taking care of this world once we are gone and they need to be exposed to it.

We’d be hard pressed to better describe the importance of Nature Explore. View the segment for yourself here.

Photo courtesy of Nature Explore.

Western states sport forests in vast mountain ranges and dense urban centers

(Ed. Note: 24 states celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, the same date as National Arbor Day, which this year falls on the 27th. This week, we’ll be highlighting what a variety of regions are doing to prepare for the tree-planting holiday. Today, we will feature Western states; Monday was New England; yesterday was the Mid-Atlantic; Thursday the Midwest; and Friday the Great Plains.)

Four Western States – Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Utah – and one Southwestern State – Texas – are among the two dozen whose state Arbor Day celebration coincides with the national holiday this Friday. Tree-lined Boise, the capital of Idaho, is pictured above.

While information on Arbor Day activities from state officials is limited, residents are encouraged to take advantage of the arbordaynow.org Volunteer Center.

Idaho

The Montana, Wyoming and Idaho-based Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee is one of 16 individuals and organizations being recognized by the Foundation at the annual Arbor Day Awards.

Whitebark pine trees are critical to the ecosystem of the Greater Yellowstone Area, but the species faces several threats, including white pine blister rust, increasing mountain pine beetle outbreaks and competition from other forest species. The Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee has been effective at beginning to address those threats.

The State of Idaho is currently home to 71 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly one million people. The largest Tree City USA in Idaho is Boise, population 205,314; the smallest is Menan, population 102.

Montana

Montana, a name derived from the Spanish word for mountains, is about one-third mountain ranges. It is one of the least populous states in the country, sending only one representative to the U.S. House, despite covering 150,000 square miles.

Gallatin National Forest covers more than two million acres in south central Montana. The forest has been the focus of replanting efforts led by the Foundation and Enterprise. Bitteroot National Forest has also been targeted for replanting.

The State of Montana is currently home to 42 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly half a million people. The largest Tree City USA in Montana is Billings, population 105,845; the smallest is Drummond, population 325.

Nevada

The Silver State is vast and mountainous, with the bulk of its people condensed into large metropolitan areas like Las Vegas and Reno. Nevada also sports some of the hottest and driest temperatures in the country. The shading effect of a well-placed tree is invaluable.

The State of Nevada is currently home to 12 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.3 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Nevada is Las Vegas, population 606,846; the smallest is Nas Fallon, population 3,000.

Utah

The Beehive State has large patches of uninhabited land, much of which is owned by the Federal Government. While dispersed on the whole, Utah is in fact one of the more urbanized states in the country. It is also among the fastest-growing.

Utah joins a number of states in offering an Arbor Day poster contest for children.

The State of Utah is currently home to 77 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.8 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Utah is Salt Lake City, population 174,000; the smallest is New Harmony, population 209.

Texas

In February, we wrote about the Lone Star State’s loss of 5.6 million urban trees this year due to drought. Fortunately, many of the largest cities in Texas are making a concerted effort to plant and nurture their trees.

The Committed to Community Growth Program, a project of Irving-based TXU Energy, is also receiving an Arbor Day Award this weekend in recognition of its effective partnership to improve the tree canopy in population-rich North Texas.

The State of Texas is currently home to 72 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 10 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Texas is Houston, population 2.3 million; the smallest is Buffalo Gap, population 463.