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DNR hopes grant program helps push kids outdoors

The "No Child Left Inside" program provides grant money to schools and non-profits to fund outdoor activities.

Even during winter, Minnesota has plenty to offer outdoors.

At South High School in Minneapolis, All Nations teacher Vince Patton knows what's out there. He pushes his students to enjoy it.

"In Minnesota we are blessed to have this winter," Patton said to his students.

Sometimes the outdoors can be his classroom. So he has several trips planned in the coming months.

"Ice fishing, open water fishing, and maple syrup," said Patton.

All the equipment for the trips are funded by a $5,000 state grant.

"Getting those funds from the Minnesota DNR is allowing our native kids to have these experiences," said Patton.

Last Spring lawmakers allocated more than a million dollars to help the DNR's push to get kids to take part in outdoor activities. This created the "No Child Left Inside" Program.

"Get them introduced to these things that they'll continue to do," said Jeff Ledermann with the Minnesota DNR fish and wildlife education skills team.

He oversees the program. Schools and non-profits can apply for grants to help fund their outdoor trips.

The program has two phases. Last October the DNR accepted applications for funding with more than 400 applying. Nearly 60 applicants were awarded the money including Vince and South High School.

The second phase just wrapped up last week. 

Jeff hopes this reverses a troubling trend.

"Kids are increasingly separated spending time on their phones. Not spending time outside," said Ledermann. "Hopefully we're making a difference."

Vince knows it will make a difference.

"It's like this connection between getting kids outside, getting kids learning," said Patton. "Engaged in this lifestyle of getting kids outdoors."

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