Date of Award
Environment and Society
Common Ground Outdoor Adventures (Common Ground) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Logan, Utah. Americorps VISTA volunteer Kate Stephens initially founded Common Ground in 1993 to enhance adaptive recreational opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities in the Cache Valley community. The organization has grown since that time and is now a fully-staffed entity which annually serves 3,600 individuals. It works with individuals with a variety of disabilities, including cognitive, physical, and emotional. Considering that there are systematic and social barriers to individuals with disabilities participating in outdoor recreation activities, the role that Common Ground plays to provide opportunities to these individuals is paramount. Case studies have shown that outdoor recreation benefits spirituality, mental restoration, personal development, physical health, and well-being for people with and without disabilities. Staff at Common Ground would like to integrate more environmental education into their outings to foster greater understanding of the natural world among participants and provide non-physical leadership opportunities for their volunteers and participants with physical disabilities. However, high turnover of staff and volunteers makes this difficult. In order to support Common Ground in implementation of natural history environmental education in its programming, a Natural History Field Guide was created between Spring 2018 and Spring 2019. Methods used to create the Guide include review of existing guidebooks, online resources, Utah State University Extension materials, and consultation with local experts. The Guide is 161 pages long and includes information about the area's geology, plants, wildlife, wetlands, climate, and local hikes. The purpose of the Guide is to promote thoughtful inquiry into features of the environment and enhance participant engagement. It has already shown promise for improving participant experience and promoting thoughtful discussion on outings.
Trout, Casey Ann, "Natural History Field Guide: Common Ground Outdoor Adventures" (2019). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 526.
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D. Layne Coppock
Departmental Honors Advisor