Getting More Kids in the Woods

Over the last couple weeks, two spontaneous off Reecer Creek meetings of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association have occurred.  As you know, under RCRGWS&OTTBA by laws, such meetings are called anytime two or more of us start talking outdoor stuff.  In both these cases, the primary agenda item was kids, outdoor connections and our Kids Outdoor Bill of Rights—a favorite subject.

Among my heroes are a couple leaders in kid outdoor connection efforts.  Robert Michael Pyle, recently on campus for a talk and visit, is the author of several books on butterflies and the outdoor growth of youth.  Richard Louv is a widely known child advocate and is the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”  You may recall the conversation with a fourth grader that spurred Louv’s mission to get kids connected to nature.  When Louv asked the boy why he didn’t play outside after school, the kid said, “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are…”  The Forest Service has taken the mission to heart.

Over the years since Louv established his Children & Nature Network, the FS has set up and funded numerous partnering opportunities for groups carrying out projects supporting kids and their outdoor experience.  I thought you might like to know about some of them.  You may even want to bring forward one of your own proposals for funding a kids’ outdoor adventure.

One of the best known partnerships is National Get Outdoors (GO) Day, launched on 14 June 2008.  GO Days across the country encourage healthy and active outdoor fun.  This year’s June 8 celebrations ranged from a wild day of festivities in City Park in Denver to quiet exploration and observation on a number of national forest and grasslands.  GO Day is a partnership between the Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition designed to connect all Americans (but especially kids) with active lifestyles and nature.  You will find plenty of information at http://www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org/, along with reasons we should be more loudly celebrating National GO Day in Paradise.

Other FS programs include More Kids in the Woods and the Children’s Forests program.  Several million dollars have been earmarked for competitive matching with local community money in both of these programs since 2009.  For Fiscal Year 2013, one million bucks was split between the two programs.  Of course, with federal budget constraints (such as sequestration) there are no guarantees of future funding, but the following are some which have been funded.

Urban children in Albuquerque, New Mexico landed on 20 acres of forestland along the Rio Grande River.  There, they climbed onto an elevated fort, hiked a trail through the cottonwood forest to learn about the different plants and animals and did what kids are supposed to do: play outside.  The Children’s Bosque—forest in Spanish—is one of a dozen Children’s Forests projects awarded funding recently.

500 middle and high school kids from area schools near Tallahassee, Florida, spent five days in a More Kids in the Woods event.  They developed new skills including archery and the use of BB gun ranges, discovered wild turkey hunting, and immersed themselves in wildlife interpretive and forestry information, with a demonstration of a prescribed burn and the role fire plays in managing ecosystems.

Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton Children’s Forest has an ongoing “Teton Ten Project,” to increase children’s connections to nature while providing service learning, environmental education, and pivotal outdoor experiences.  The project, in partnership with over 20 organizations, provides opportunities for every child in the regional community to take part in ten types of experiences to establish the Bridger-Teton National Forest Children’s Forest.

In Alaska, Yakutat’s TERN of Events program will add more youth activities during the Yakutat Tern Festival in the Tongass National Forest.  Educational leaders will have funding, thanks to the partnership, to enhance festival offerings and expand instruction to young people about natural sources.  The Chugach National Forest partnership will engage underserved 16- to 19-year-olds in 10-week work experiences on municipal and federal lands.

River Pathways on Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, a project for inner-city teens, will engage them in conservation activities to educate them about Arizona’s rivers, facilitate field trip experiences and involve them in habitat monitoring activities.

Find out more from http://www.fs.usda.gov/conservationeducation, the conservation education office of the Forest Service.  Assistant Director Heidi McAllister will have info about future funding of programs for your kids and grandkids, at 202-205-1781 or hmcallister@fs.fed.us.

For easy ways to get your family outside, go to www.DiscovertheForest.org.  “The Book of Stuff to Do Outdoors” is free to download and offers ideas from how to keep a nature journal to making a water scope.

Here’s to outdoor kids forever.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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