MRC part­ners with Chan­nel Marker in new pro­gram

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By SARAH DRURY

Spe­cial from the Star Demo­crat

— Nur­ture by Na­ture, the new­est ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram cre­ated in a part­ner­ship be­tween the Mid­shore River­keep­ers Con­ser­vancy ( MRC) and Chan­nel Marker Inc. has nearly com­pleted its first year in pro­vid­ing Chan­nel Marker youth clients with out­door sum­mer ex­pe­ri­ences and after­school pro­gram­ming fo­cused on con­nect­ing hu­man health to time spent play­ing out­side.

The Nur­ture by Na­ture pro­gram was started in the sum­mer of 2015 and kicked off with a three day pro­gram in Horn Point where 54 chil­dren were able to go canoeing, par­tic­i­pate in com­pass


scav­enger hunts and do arts and crafts.

“We have been do­ing after­school pro­grams since it be­gan,” said Suzanne Sul­li­van, ed­u­ca­tion and vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor at MRC. “It’s about get­ting kids away from the com­puter and off the couch and show­ing them that play­ing out­side ev­ery­day is good for them.”

The pro­gram is funded by the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Trust Out­door Health Ini­tia­tive Grant, which pro­vides ac­ces­si­ble funds to or­ga­ni­za­tions and agen­cies to con­nect in­di­vid­u­als to spa­ces within their com­mu­ni­ties through out­door recre­ation and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams.

This grant re­ceived com­mu­nity feedback about peo­ple who want to see pro­grams fo­cus on hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal health. The MRC de­cided to part­ner with Chan­nel Marker, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides com­mu­ni­ty­based re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion for adults and chil­dren liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness.

Sul­li­van said the pro­gram pri­mar­ily in­volves chil­dren who have an ac­cess one di­ag­no­sis, such as ADHD or be­hav­ioral is­sues, who just need a lit­tle some­thing to do after school in­stead of just sit­ting at home.

“It’s to cre­ate the idea in the kids’ minds be­tween a healthy body, healthy mind and healthy en­vi­ron­ment,” Sul­li­van said.

The MRC ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams are founded on the re­search that spend­ing time out­doors im­proves stu­dents’ abil­i­ties in the class­room, their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and boosts kids’ con­fi­dence and Sul­li­van said this was a ma­jor fac­tor in why they part­nered with Chan­nel Marker. Another ma­jor rea­son this part­ner­ship was cre­ated was be­cause the MRC was aware that Chan­nel Marker had been do­ing work in the Mid-Shore for many years al­ready.

So far the pro­gram has worked with about 50 kids, and many of them par­tic­i­pate through­out the year.

“We have had kids that we see through­out the year and they are still talk­ing about that time they went canoeing,” Sul­li­van said. “A lot of these ex­pe­ri­ences have stuck with them and they re­mem­ber it and that was our goal to have a positive con­nec­tion with the en­vi­ron­ment to get them out­doors and ul­ti­mately have them take care of the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Sul­li­van said one of the ma­jor goals at MRC is to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment and these pro­grams are im­por­tant to teach the younger gen­er­a­tion about en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy.

“Our goal is to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment but we can­not do that un­less the next gen­er­a­tion feels con­nected to it and it can­not just be one set of peo­ple,” Sul­li­van said. “We want to reach out to broader com­mu­ni­ties and make ev­ery­one feel they have a stake in the en­vi­ron­ment.”

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