Living in the city’s concrete sprawl, it’s easy to forget that craggy rocks and whispering forests are just beyond the city’s boundaries. For Kirk Reynolds, his love of the outdoors inspired him to found Discover Outdoors, a company that gets city-dwellers into the wild. This month the company launched a non-profit wing that lets low-income students at NYC schools get their hands dirty while doing lessons on geology, biology and earth sciences — free of charge.
Tell us how your non-profit works.
At the most basic level, we work with the Hudson River Park Trust, a public organization funded by the city. We teach them how to fish right in the Hudson River. With that trip, we take up to 50 students, but some programs we can take hundreds of students. During the lesson, we keep one of the fish that we catch and then we dissect it. The teachers and the guides do a biology lesson right on the spot.
How do you fit in the real learning?
Before we take the kids out we have a number of meetings with administrators and teachers. The teachers are the ones who do the lessons, so we ask them what their objectives are to help facilitate that class in an outdoor setting. The kids range from ages 12 to 18, so there is a lot of leeway on the lesson plans.
What is the goal of the organization?
The response has been overwhelming. The ultimate goal is increasing graduation rates and offering more classes through experiences in the outdoors. We hope the inspiration for students will ultimately affect graduation rates, which are too low at 60 percent. The follow-through is that we’ve created a scholarship program that we’re hoping will help students through graduation.