Diane Schwartz is passionate about the outdoors and loves sharing that passion with children and their families.
She grew up in Middleton, Wisconsin nearby great parks and trails. She played and took refuge from childhood worries in the Pheasant Branch Nature Conservancy and loved to bike neighborhood streets.
“Spending time in nature helped me endure difficult situations and was just plain fun. Now, I love giving kids and families the gift of nature. It’s a simple restorative solution for stress and an endless source of beauty and wonder,” she said.
In 2008, after getting her Elementary teaching degree, she joined the after school staff at Goodman Community Center. Soon after, she started leading hikes for kids on the weekends. In 2009, she added cross-country skiing and in 2010 she wrote and received a grant and started the biking program. That same year, she formed Get Kids Outside and started writing this blog. She worked at Goodman Community Center until 2012 and then started leading trips at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church, an African-American Church on Madison’s east side led by Reverend Everett Mitchell.
“I wanted to get kids outside and help reduce the achievement and opportunity gap in Madison – the worst in the nation – but what could this white girl do in a town full of well-meaning white folks? I knew that something needed to change and that change started with me. In 2012, I met Rev. Mitchell and he invited me to his church and nothing has been the same since.”
Attending services at “The Rock” and ultimately joining the church, opened her eyes to social justice issues and forced her to address white privilege and how that keeps us separate from one another. This strengthened her resolve to provide outdoor experiences for African-American youth, and to use nature as a healing force in a city wrought with economic and education disparities.
There is so much to do. Diane would like to start by creating partnerships with existing agencies like the Aldo Leopold Center and working with African-American Churches to provide more outdoor opportunities. That’s why she changed the name the business to Outdoors 123 to better reflect the larger purpose of the organization. It’s no longer one person leading hikes with kids, but one person working with others to create more opportunities. It’s a work in progress that will only continue to grow.
In Our Madison Plan, Justified Anger maps out an ambitious plan to address the gross inequities facing Dane County’s people of color as made clear in the Race to Equity Report. The report identifies Family and Community Wellness as one of five focus areas. The activities of Outdoors 123 hang upon this structure. Diane welcomes the opportunity to be a white ally to help implement this plan.
When she’s not leading hikes for kids, she works for the Department of Public Instruction and leads hikes with the Women’s Outdoor Meet-up Group and other outdoor clubs in Madison.
Feel free to contact her and comment on blog postings.