#DifficultTerrain: Stories of Summer

Stories of Summer

It's time for young people to return to school and inevitably, they will be asked – by teachers and peers – about their summer.

What did you do this summer? Tell me a story about your summer break….

Will those stories include meaningful experiences outside? Did these youth go for a hike, spend time on a beach, play at a park, or stare up at the stars from a sleeping bag?

We know that many of their stories will not include the outdoors – which is a statistic we need to continue to work to change.

But what about the ones who said they did get to go outside….what about their stories?

When they begin to describe their adventures, will people look surprised because this narrative is not one immediately associated with Black people or Latinx people or Asian people?

And when we truly listen, will these stories have undercurrents of insecurity as these young people remember the double-take looks their family received as they adjusted their water packs at a trailhead?

Or will they recall feelings of being unwelcome as a parent ushered their children away from a piece of playground equipment as they came near?

Or bewilderment that the faces of people working outside don’t reflect their own?

Or will they tell of visits to our national parks and monuments and relate the stories of events and people that have shaped the history of this country…most of which do not include the many different groups of people who have been underrepresented in our traditional telling of history?

Getting kids outside is not enough. Every culture has a relationship to and with the outdoors – and true success will come when every young person feels included and empowered in our outdoor and natural spaces.