Western North Carolina houses some of the highest percentage of publicly protected lands in the eastern United States. Mount Mitchell, in the Black Mountains, stands at 6,684 feet, making it the highest point in eastern North America. KEEN Effect Grantee, Muddy Sneakers, is right in the middle of this beautiful landscape. The Southern Appalachian Mountains, including the incredible Pisgah National Forest, are a as close as you can get, but despite this, an increasing number of children and parents alike are not getting outside to explore this remarkable landscape. Muddy Sneakers is working to change this in the mountain communities of Western North Carolina and beyond.
Based in Brevard, NC, Muddy Sneakers partners with public elementary schools in an effort to connect 5th grade students with the natural world through science-based, small-group, experiential instruction on nearby protected lands. Over the course of the school year, students spend between 6-10 full days learning science curriculum in outdoor classrooms while hiking and exploring the region’s breathtaking protected lands. They receive high quality, hands-on instruction from a dedicated staff of professional naturalists. Since 2007, Muddy Sneakers has served approximately 6,500 public school students across five counties. As students return to these accessible lands with family and friends to show off what they’ve seen and learned, the program reaches beyond the youth to indirectly impact older generations that may never have had a Muddy Sneakers experience.
With their KEEN Effect grant, Muddy Sneakers intends to expand their current presence from 19 to at least 22 schools across six Western North Carolina counties including the addition of a pilot program in Upstate South Carolina. On average, schools partnering with Muddy Sneakers have seen a 20% increase on end-of-grade testing after their first year of participating.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to see how Muddy Sneakers will continue to grow and expose more and more students to the great outdoors.