By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Twitter employees can use their laptops on the new 20,000-square-foot ninth-story deck and succulent plant garden at the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Cool perk, you think, but Twitter’s one of those edgy, new media employers. On the other hand, New Jersey’s BASF chemical company is an old-line corporation. Its employees now can hold meetings and conference calls on plant-filled patios and quads. Executives at the venerable public relations firm Ogilvy & Mather in New York can break from their office cubicles to take in Hudson River views on the company deck.
In years past, employees with some of the most progressive corporations boasted about foosball tables and free snacks. Now, they are bragging about outdoor workspace.
Research shows people feel less stress and may even perform better with some fresh air. So companies are investing in open-air places for employees to meet, work or just clear their heads.
Some corporations insist on outdoor space because employees do better when they have a variety of settings in which to work – including the great outdoors.
If some of America’s biggest employers have found that the outdoors is a boon to productivity and progress, it’s all the more reason for the National Wildlife Refuge System to expand its reach and improve environmental education offerings. We’ve already taken the first step with “Sowing Seeds of Wonder,” a draft strategic plan for improving environmental education, developed by the Conserving the Future Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation team.
Among the proposals: more chances for the public to participate in citizen science with such partners as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Project BudBurst; development of a national visitor services “communications hub” to share educational resources, including lesson plans; more mobile learning platforms; and stewardship activities for local schools.
Wildlife conservation is the Refuge System’s fundamental mission. But we won’t succeed if we don’t inspire the American people – especially our children – to connect with their wildlife heritage and become stewards of their natural resources. Wildlife refuges, integral to their local communities, are great places to broaden the nation’s conservation constituency.
After all, if the managers at Iowa law firm Foss, Kuiken & Cochran installed SkyCeiling – a faux skylight printed with images of a blue, sunny sky – to invigorate the office’s windowless reception area, imagine how thrilled they would be if their children could visit a real outdoor space – a national wildlife refuge – where the sky is naturally blue.
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