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The Get Wild Wyoming initiative wants to get more preschool and kindergarten kids outside

Get Wild Wyoming logo
Wyoming Department of Education

The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder recently launched Get Wild Wyoming. The initiative is being introduced in several areas throughout the state to get more preschool and kindergarten students outdoors and involved in nature-based education.

“The focus is to get kids outside more. We want them outside of their classrooms and out of their chairs, we want our kids moving mountains, and that begins by getting them out of their chairs in the first place,” said Amy Reyes, WDE’s state early learning specialist. “We want them to get outdoors where they're able to breathe the fresh air and run like the wind if they want to.”

Reyes came up with the idea for Get Wild Wyoming to combat negative behaviors in the classroom, fight obesity and to improve the mental health of children.

“Research has proven that more time outside helps the body and the brain, so the preschool years are critical for development,” she said. “That ties perfectly to nurturing the body and the brain, so that's exactly why this initiative was started.”

This is the first iteration of the WDE initiative, which was formally instituted on July 31 at five pre-K and two kindergarten schools. These include Basic Beginnings in Laramie, Natrona County Child Development in Casper, Sweetwater Child Development Center in Green River, Teton Literacy Center in Jackson, and the Evanston Child Development Center in Evanston. A total of 14 pre-K and two kindergartens will participate in the initiative when the school year begins in the fall.

Learning sites receive materials such as water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, and first aid kits to ensure students can safely enjoy their time outdoors. Wyoming State Parks is also participating by contributing Junior Ranger passports. Plus creating events focused on children and families and special tours that families can request. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is provided scratch and find scavenger hunt booklets and prizes for those who complete activities. The current pre-K and kindergarten schools are involved with the program this month and next. Depending on the weather conditions, no outdoor activities will be planned during the winter, with more beginning in the spring.

Get Wild Wyoming consists of an array of activities for kids and families.

“Whether it's taking the kids to the local state parks, or just spending time outside utilizing the regular classroom time, so taking their centers outside or doing their circle time outside, utilizing their regular academics, outside, whatever that looks like, everybody has a different version of it, just making sure that each of those classrooms is spending an additional eight hours a day, eight hours a week outside of their regular classroom time,” Reyes said.

The WDE is looking for funding partners to keep the initiative going and to expand its reach to other schools and learning sites statewide. Current funding is provided by a grant that was allocated to the WDE’s Project AWARE, a program that provides mental health services and other treatment options for students who need them.

The WDE wants to ensure that Get Wild Wyoming is at no cost to each of the sites that are participating.

Updated information will be posted about the WDE’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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