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Take It Outside Challenge wins Outstanding Environmental Education Program Award

An award plaque taken outside with a clear blue sky background.

The Forest Preserve District’s 2023 Take It Outside Challenge has received an award from the Forest Preserve and Conservation Section of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association.

The Outstanding Environmental Education Program Award was announced on Thursday, May 9, during an IPRA awards ceremony at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. 

The Forest Preserve’s Take It Outside Challenge launched in 2023 and was an immediate hit with members of the public. Throughout the year, 1,200 people completed missions to earn points and prizes. Along the way, they discovered new preserves, improved their health, learned about nature and make new friends. By the time the challenge wrapped up on Dec. 31, 117,000 mission submissions were received. 

“When we launched the Take It Outside campaign, it didn’t take long to see that we had created something that really connected with people,” said Chad Merda, head of digital marketing strategy/engagement for the Forest Preserve. “Launching an ambitious campaign like this isn’t about winning awards, but it is always nice when your peers recognize the impact it’s had, especially when we see others following our lead and creating similar programs.”

The Take It Outside Challenge was a new and creative way to reach people who were not familiar with the Forest Preserve and needed a nudge to explore the preserves and nature, he added. The challenge was so popular and effective at getting people outdoors, it is continuing this year with four seasonal challenge sessions. 

“When we set out, the goal was to get as many people out enjoying nature as often as we could because there are so many health benefits tied to being outdoors,” Merda said. “The educational component of this also has been huge, because with every mission we include a related link on our website. That is important to us, because the more we can educate people about the forest preserve district and nature in general, the more they will appreciate and understand it.”

There is still time to join this year’s Take It Outside Challenge. The Winter Workout ended on March 30, but the Spring Fling is underway and will continue until June 15. There also will be a Summer Soiree from June 30 to Sept. 21 and a Fall Frolic from Oct. 6, to Dec. 14. Challenge details and rules are posted online. Simply download the free Goosechase app to your smart phone to get started. 

Each seasonal challenge will feature a variety of prizes. Amazon gift cards in the amounts of $500, $250 and $150 will be awarded for first, second and third places, respectively. Additional prizes will be awarded. 

The Take It Outside Challenge is sponsored by The Nature Foundation of Will County. Take It Outside hats, shirts, and bandanas are available for purchase at and all proceeds go to the Foundation which supports nature education, conservation and restoration efforts.



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