The Outside Foundation’s mission is consistent with that of it’s founding company, Outside Hilton Head: to provide exceptional outdoor experiences that will have a positive impact on people by creating awareness, expanding knowledge, and developing a responsible understanding of nature and the environment. For almost 40 years, Outside Hilton Head has been providing kayak and boat based educational Eco tours led by guides who are trained interpretive naturalists. The emphasis for these tours has always been on educating both residents and visitors about the uniqueness of the local ecosystem, and in helping to educate about ways to protect and preserve the South Carolina low country. Over the years it became apparent to Outside Hilton Head CEO Mike Overton that the typical tourist from Ohio had a much better chance of getting out on the local waters than a child born here.
Both The Outside Foundation and Outside Hilton Head believe that there has never been a more critical time for getting kids outside. Our funding is greatly challenged while at the same time our local waters are increasingly threatened by development along the southeast coast. Several local oyster beds have been closed to harvesting and the headwaters of our pristine May River are threatened. Through the “Kids in Kayaks” program we hope each 7th grade student who participates will develop a new prospective and appreciation for the tidal salt marsh ecosystem and see first hand how their daily lives are connected to the water.
For many of these students participation in the “Kids in Kayaks” program will be the very first time they’ve worn a life jacket, held a paddle, and hopped into a kayak. Understanding this, we do everything we can to ensure safety while still having fun. Only professional kayak guides are used in the program and we begin each session with a paddle clinic where students learn the proper way to hold a paddle and the various strokes. After donning life jackets, students partner-up and are placed in double, canoe-style kayaks. We are confident that if the students feel safe, and have lots of fun, they’ll be much more likely to want to take advantage of future opportunities to go kayaking. While half of the group is kayaking the other half is participating in interactive dockside learning stations designed to allow students to examine the salt marsh through testing, examining, analyzing, and talking about the water and floating dock community.
The primary goal of the “Kids in Kayaks” program is to expose as many Beaufort County, South Carolina, 7th grade students as possible to the salt marshes and tidal rivers of the Port Royal Sound watershed. This exposure is accomplished by allowing students, during a regular school day, an opportunity to kayak and participate in interactive dockside stations under the direct supervision of trained interpretive naturalists and classroom teachers. To allow all students an opportunity to participate, The Outside Foundation is seeking $5000.00 in grant aid to offset the cost of participation for those students whose families cannot otherwise afford this fun and educational experience.
Through our partnership with Outside Hilton Head, one of the premier outdoor outfitters on the SE Coast and GOA member, The Outside Foundation has access to multiple waterways to allow ideal sites for hosting school groups for the “Kids in Kayaks” programs. Outside Hilton Head has for so many years provided not only access but kayaks and professional guides to allow this terrific program to continue. Our local waterways are home to many federally protected species such as the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, Bald Eagle, Loggerhead Sea Turtles and migrating Manatees. For these students studying environmental science, exploring the waterways by kayak presents an ideal way to learn about the local ecosystem. The salt marsh serves as a nursery for crabs, shrimp, fish and shark, as well as home for a diverse population of birds, including egrets, herons, ibis, brown pelican , gulls, terns and various shorebirds.
The coastal region of South Carolina has over 500,00 acres of salt marsh. Salt marshes and tidal rivers, like those found covering 50% of Beaufort County, are examples of some of the most biologically productive ecosystems on earth. Connections to this awe-inspiring ecosystem, especially when formed at a young age, are critical for the development of environmental stewardship.
The Outside Foundation was formed in 2014 with a mission to get kids outside and to protect and preserve our local environment.
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