The Joy of Teaching Kids Leave No Trace

Incline Village, Nevada: Incline Village Elementary School is a partner of Leave No Trace and their support is shown through their commitment to providing Leave No Trace education to all of their 500 students. Preschoolers up to fifth grade students took part in learning about how they can minimize their impact every area from their local parks, ski resorts, Lake Tahoe, to the wilderness surrounding their community. The kids at Incline are definitely fortunate to live in the beautiful area that they do and their teachers and principal recognize that and want to not only foster a love of the outdoors, but also develop respect for it as well.

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For 3 school days we taught 18 different 45 minutes session teaching 25-30 students per class what Leave No Trace is, connected them to their outdoor environment, and taught them how to use the Leave No Trace seven principles. Our teaching style is a progressive walk through each principle with an activity/demonstration per principle. Kids chased each other simulating impacts verse wildlife, in our impact and wildlife activity to demonstrate how our impacts are detrimental to wildlife for Respect Wildlife. They ran a relay race with cards that had gear listed on them to signs with each of the principles for Know Before You Go. One of our favorite games, Ok/No way, was used to give the students examples of what is a minimal impact behavior and what is not for everything from Be Careful with Fire, Leave What You Find, and Be Kind to Other Visitors. Several other games from a simulated hike, a Bigfoot Says version of Simon says with the principles, and a guessing game about each principle were used to keep the kids engaged, happy, and learning the different aspects of Leave No Trace.

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We even got to answer outdoor ethical questions on Leave No Trace when the question about Leave What You Find inevitably came up. A young girl asked, “if there are a thousand wildflowers, wouldn’t it be okay to pick at least one”. We explained that the seven principals are not rules, they are good suggestions/guidelines and that it is a personal choice to follow the principles. We detailed how wildflowers need to drop seeds for next year’s growth and that if thousands of people came through that area and pick a flower, the accumulative impact would overwhelm the field of wildflowers.

At the end of each of our sessions with every class we challenge the students to teach Leave No Trace to at least two other people using either the yellow kids hang tag or the frontcountry tag for the older grades. We love this part of the workshop because it promotes a sense of responsibility for their new knowledge set. It is one thing to know how to Leave No Trace, but Leave No Trace is a concept that can be spread and held onto for life.

Thanks for reading and remember to be like the Center’s mascot Bigfoot and Leave No Trace!

Pat and TJ

Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Hi-Cone, REI, and Smartwool.