In our last edition, Kansas Wetlands Education Center Manager Curtis Wolf discussed "Nature Deficit Disorder" and the importance of getting children outside. I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to interact with an eclectic array of people through our outreach events and school programs. I have an activity in one of my programs where I ask participants to reflect on their favorite childhood memories and draw a setting or activity that comes to mind. Unfortunately, I have found a definitive trend. 99% of the time, adults age twenty and up draw themselves outdoors either throwing a baseball, watching the stars, running, catching insects, crossing a creek, fixing a car, or whatever else it may be.
Kids, on the other hand, draw themselves playing on the computer, texting their friends, playing video games, watching movies and so on. See a difference here?
As Wolf said, "The fact is today’s youth, for whatever reason, are not given many of the same outdoor opportunities that we were given." So often we blame this on technology, but it can be used to enhance our outdoor experiences and has arisen to keep up with the rapid pace at which we live our lives. We can even use technology to If you are like me, you feel like you have less and less time the older you get….and I am only in my twenties! We wait until retirement to relax, but then hear from many retirees that they are busier after retirement than they ever were before.
We here at the KWEC want to create opportunities for people to slow down, relax, enjoy the little things in life, and gain a better understanding of the natural world around them. One place we like to focus our efforts is with our youth. The youth of today are tomorrow’s future, and we have the opportunity to change the downward decline of time spent outdoors.
The Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms, a group formed with the mission of promoting and interpreting Cheyenne Bottoms, developing and implementing improvements and educational programs, and promoting and developing nature based tourism, along with the KWEC, decided to create an event for second graders last year. The event, coined "Wetlands Education Day," was opened up to all Great Bend 2nd grade classes, and had over 234 second graders participate, all of which were at the KWEC at the same time.
You may think that having that many second graders in one place at the same time is crazy, but to us, the more the merrier, which is why all 375 second graders in Barton County have been invited to attend the 2nd annual Wetlands Education Day on Sept. 1. Throughout the day, students will rotate through age-appropriate and interactive learning stations where they will learn about wonderful wetlands, the arduous journey of water, explore creatures of the night, survive a migration obstacle course, and partake in a scavenger hunt and a nature hike.
An event like the Wetlands Education Day requires a lot of planning, volunteers, and funds, but fortunately many people and businesses have seen the value in exciting our youth about nature and getting kids outdoors. Many people have graciously volunteered their time and many clubs and businesses have made generous donations.
The Wetlands Education Day is but one example of efforts to help our youth discover the wonders of the outdoors and to provide them with opportunities to use their imagination and explore the world around them. Whether we are taking 375 kids outside or just one, the KWEC will continue to provide hands-on, nature based activities. We hope you will consider doing the same!