Let's Go Outdoors!

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Tarsha and Keisha Scovens received the 2023 Mira Lloyd Dock Partnership Diversity Award for their work sharing their“Diversifying the Outdoors” message to under-represented communities in Lancaster and Philadelphia.

BJ Small/CBF Staff

Twin sisters Keisha and Tarsha Scovens are on a mission to share their love of the outdoors with city communities

A $10 tent and sense of adventure drove twins Keisha and Tarsha Scovens to camp their way across most of America. When they got back to the East Coast a year later, they were inspired to create a program so that more people of color could appreciate and participate in the outdoors.

“I heard other people say that they camped across the country, so I thought we could do it too,” Tarsha said. “It was an adventure to connect with other individuals, to see the country, and we were going to make a difference.”

Today, their Let’s Go Outdoors (LGO) program is increasing family engagement in outdoor recreation, and teaching diverse youth and adults in under-represented communities in Lancaster and Philadelphia about the environment and conservation.

For their work, the sisters received the 2023 Mira Lloyd Dock Partnership Diversity Award given by the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership for conservation and Environmental Justice efforts in under-represented communities.

“Keisha and Tarsha are so deserving of this honor because they demonstrate initiative, compassion, and commitment to clean water and the welfare of people in their communities,” Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership manager Joe Hallinan said. The partnership is coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

A student examines an insect.

Tarsha Scovens encourages a student participating in the Let's Go Outdoors program. The program took students outside to discover and learn about insects and other wildlife in their neighborhood.

Keisha and Tarsha Scovens

“In Philadelphia or Lancaster, we are at environmental centers, county parks, or other locations where people feel like they are far removed from their city environment but actually aren’t,” Tarsha said. She is founder and president of LGO. “We are still in the city and able to give people the ability to see beyond the city landscape. They are seeing natural habitat and ecosystems that they are not thinking about.”

LGO delivers its “Diversifying the Outdoors” message to under-represented communities through surveys, outreach, urban outdoor initiatives, and speaking engagements and presentations.

A crowd of students stand on a city sidewalk preparing to board school buses.

School students participate in the "Nature in My Neighborhood" program, visiting Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia.

Keisha and Tarsha Scovens

Tarsha is based in Philadelphia. Keisha is in Lancaster and the director of Community Outreach for LGO. She also serves as executive director of the nonprofit, Let’s Go 1-2-3, providing services in Lancaster and Philadelphia.

“In Lancaster, our Let’s Go 1-2-3 work has centered around our middle school and the city of Lancaster in general,” Keisha said. “Our work has focused on our watershed, specifically our tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay which are the Conestoga River, leading to the Susquehanna and then to the Bay. Activities are focused on helping students understand their watershed and for city residents to understand their outdoor environments that are nearby to their homes.”

Let’s Go 1-2-3 offers free programming to remove financial, material, equipment fees and any barriers preventing people from participating in outdoor experiences. They provide indoor lessons and outdoor activities, a trip and excursion and then challenge participants to take a “next step” which includes giving back through improving the outdoors.

The journey leading to the creation of LGO started with a long camping trip in 1996, when the sisters from Connecticut decided to spend a year together, after four years apart at college. They saw an AmeriCorps poster with President Bill Clinton, signed up and were accepted in Utah.

After a year of service at Dixie College in St. George, Utah, Keisha and Tarsha returned to the East Coast with a better tent and an appreciation for the benefits of being outdoors.

Keisha was working in Lancaster at Wickersham Elementary School when the principal asked about a program to bring students and parents together to increase learning and provide a new kind of enrichment. Let’s Go Outdoors was born.

Tarsha has been on faculty at Montgomery County Community College in the Liberal Arts Division for eight years. When funding for the Lancaster enrichment program didn’t happen, an award of $15,000 from the Women for Social Innovation a year later allowed the sisters to move LGO forward in Philadelphia in 2012.

Within two years, a subcontract with the Philadelphia Water Department initiated the sisters’ watershed education to School District of Philadelphia students. They focus on drinking water, water pollution, educational tours, and nature activities.

In 2017, they received a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to provide environmental education to students in Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh to connect them with their watersheds. The sisters were looking for ways to expand the LGO vision and opportunities for middle and high school students.

Tarsha has a master’s degree in Professional Communication from La Salle University and a bachelor’s in Liberal Studies from Virginia Wesleyan College. Keisha has a master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from Gallaudet University and a bachelor’s from Loyola University in Maryland (was Loyola College).

The sisters completed Pennsylvania Master Naturalist training in 2014-2015.

 “We came into this as outdoor enthusiasts, wanting to see more people of color wanting to participate in outdoor activities, while learning about their environments,” Tarsha said. “I really appreciate when people say, ‘I never thought about it this way or saw this’ in the guise of someone looking at beauty of our natural environment, even in the city.”

Mira Lloyd Dock is recognized as the first Pennsylvania woman to lead the way in forest conservation. She was an advocate for Penn’s Woods and in 1901 was appointed to the State Forest Reservation Commission by Pennsylvania Governor William Stone.

B.J. Small 90x110

B.J. Small

Pennsylvania Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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