Fueled by The North Face, the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge invests in college students’ ideas and ingenuity to combat the inactivity trend among young people.
For the first time ever, 10 universities across the US are engaging in the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge, an initiative of the Outdoor Foundation, that kicked off Sept. 27 and runs through Nov. 22. For eight weeks, schools will go head-to-head for the title of National Champion – the most ‘outdoorsy’ school in America. Most importantly, this challenge aims to use the creativity and ingenuity of college students to reverse Nature Deficit Disorder as well as the inactivity trend prevalent among young people today.
Schools competing in the Challenge include: Appalachian State University, California State University, Long Beach, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, George Mason University, James Madison University, Michigan Technological University, University of Central Florida, University of Iowa and University of Wisconsin-Madison and Spelman College.
The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge is simple; universities will compete to see which campus can get the most people outside and active. Think Mother Nature meets March Madness. Through contests, prizes and good ‘ole fashion rivalry, universities will provide incentives to their student bodies and larger communities to get outside and active. Prizes include title of Most Outdoorsy Individual as well as great gear, a campus-wide celebration, head-to-toe outfitting by The North Face, and internship with the Outdoor Foundation and more. Contest Core will be the platform that allows Outdoor Nation to track, validate, reward and recognize participation at oncampuschallenge.org.
“College students are among the most creative people in our country today and we’re excited to see how they use their innovative ideas and talent activate their campuses,” said Chris Fanning executive director of the Outdoor Foundation. “We believe they have the power to make real change in their generation by getting their peers outside and active. We know to truly inspire a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts, the ideas and energy must come from them – thus, the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge.”
The Challenge, fueled by The North Face, was developed to combat some of today’s bleak statistics around young people and outdoor participation. Current research tells us young people spend 50 percent less time outdoors in natural settings than the generation that preceded them. The average young adult today spends eight hours in front of a screen and only a few minutes outside.
“Having a truly great experience in the outdoors is the first spark that can ignite a lifelong passion for nature and protecting the places we all love to play,” said Ann Krcik, director of Outdoor Exploration at The North Face. “The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge is inspiring students and their communities to experience the outdoors in new ways, helping us create a global movement of outdoor exploration.”
Spelman College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Atlanta, Ga. is among the schools selected to compete in the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge – an especially impressive feat given that just two years ago they didn’t have an outdoor club. Spelman was first introduced to Outdoor Nation In 2011, when two committed and passionate students, Candice Gaul and Seth Wolf from Spelman and Morehouse Colleges respectively, attended an Outdoor Nation Summit.
The following year, Gaul and Wolf worked hard to shift the culture on their college campuses to incorporate more of a focus on outdoor engagement. They received training, support and mentorship from Outdoor Nation to do so. Their work culminated in the summer of 2013, when they organized the first student-run Outdoor Nation Summit in Atlanta, bringing together more than 30 students to discuss the unique challenges of building outdoor communities of color. An idea sparked and the first-of-its-kind joint outdoor club was formed called, the “Spelhouse Outdoor Club”. This groundbreaking project expanded the outdoor network for hundreds of students from these two HBCUs to experience ongoing outdoor activities, many for the first time.
“Today, our outdoor programs are so popular among students that our outings fill up in less than an hour,” said Gaul. “What started as culture void of outdoor recreation has flourished into one that is eager for outdoor engagement opportunities of all kinds. We’re thrilled to now be in the running with nine other colleges to see if we have what it takes to win the title of most outdoorsy university in America.”
Wolf and Gaul graduated and a new crop of strong leaders will be heading up the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge at Spelman. They plan to focus on health and wellness by inviting the community on a 3k walk/run around the city of Atlanta. Other plans include hosting a mass yoga event, participating in park cleanups, maintaining a community garden, and throwing After Dark Picnics that connect students from other HBCUs in the area to their thriving outdoor network – including them in the challenge.
Image courtesy Outdoor Foundation & Outdoor Nation