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Inspiring Kids To Learn From Nature And Outdoor Enthusiasts Fighting Stereotypes

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Barb Sargent
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Courtesy WV DNR
Biologists tag and release a northern flying squirrel.

In this era, kids spend so much time looking at screens. This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet a storyteller and songwriter who inspires kids to get outside and explore nature. And we visit a former strip mine where Elk are being reintroduced. This episode explores stories about humans and nature, and what experiencing the outdoors means to different people.

In honor of spring, we’ll listen back to an episode we originally aired last March. It’s all about how much we need the outdoors - and what it can teach us and our children. We’ll meet people who are inspired by wild places and by wild animals. And we’ll hear how a group is challenging stereotypes about African Americans and the great outdoors.

In This Episode:

Elk In Appalachia
Across Appalachia, there are several efforts to reintroduce elk back to the forest. There’s a project in North Carolina, another in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia. And in Kentucky, an elk project is now in its second decade. Reporter Irina Zhorov spent some time there to learn why so much energy has been spent reintroducing elk to the Bluegrass State.

Elk, Standing Elk
Albert Herring

Reintroducing Elk In Appalachia
Five years ago, West Virginia launched its own elk reintroduction project, inspired by Kentucky’s. State officials estimate it could eventually give a $3 billion hunting and tourism boost to the economy. Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan spent time trying to catch a glimpse of elk in the southern coalfields of West Virginia and learned how the project was going.

Since that story originally aired in 2020, West Virginia Wildlife officials have been able to confirm that 15 baby elk were born in the Mountain State last year - bringing the herd’s total to 85.

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C. Williams
Silas House wrote an article for The Atlantic on the lack of media attention during the Eastern Kentucky flooding in 2020.

Storyteller Uses Song To Inspire Kids To Learn About Nature
These days, kids spend less time exploring the outdoors and more time in front of screens. Studies show that time outside is especially important for kids. It can help them reduce stress and stay healthy. In this episode, we’ll hear from Doug Elliott, a North Carolina naturalist who is using storytelling and song to get kids excited about the natural world.

Rural Appalachians Connection To Nature
Writer Silas House argues that too many people around the world are losing their connection with nature. Last year, he wrote an article in The Atlantic, responding to the lack of media attention that he saw after parts of central Appalachia faced catastrophic flooding in 2020. This week on the show, House reads the first part of his essay.

 

Outdoor Afro Blog Fighting Stereotypes
If you look at most magazines that sell hiking and rock-climbing gear, you might assume that “outdoor” people are only white. That characterization is just not true, according to Rue Mapp, an outdoor enthusiast. Mapp is Black and loves getting outside. The challenges contending with these stereotypes inspired her to start an online blog called Outdoor Afro.

Her blog evolved into a non-profit with Outdoor Afro leaders and participants all over the country. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple sat down with Mapp, and one of the group’s leaders, Kim Refosco, who is based in Pittsburgh.

The Rebounding Northern Flying Squirrel
West Virginia’s northern flying squirrel was endangered, but is now rebounding. While challenges remain, federal biologists say the species continues to do well, in large part due to the restoration of its habitat: red spruce forest. Reporter Brittany Patterson takes a hike through one of its iconic ecosystems to find out more.

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We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WHYY in Philadelphia, The Allegheny Front, which is produced in Pittsburgh and reports on the environment, and the Ohio Valley ReSource, which is funded by the Corporation for public broadcasting and West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, and Blue Dot Sessions.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture.
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jade Artherhults is the associate producer for Inside Appalachia and is based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jartherhults@wvpublic.org or @JArtherhults on Twitter.