How to Get Involved with Nature and Conservation

In a world of increasing technology, today’s youth are experiencing a “nature deficit,” said Hollie Sanders, education specialist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Sanders said parents should encourage their children to get outside, even if it’s only in their own backyards, because experiencing nature has a wealth of mental and physical benefits. She said parents should also be careful to avoid passing along fears of the outdoors to their kids.

Liz Fulton, executive director of the Arkansas Audubon Society’s Halberg Ecology Camp and a retired science teacher, said appreciating the outdoors helps “ground” kids and creates memories.

“It gives them a feeling for the things around them and emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything,” she said. “When we don’t have a feel for nature and things around of us, we don’t take care of our environment.”

“We are a part of this land, not just users of it,” Sanders said. “We want children grow up as good stewards of that.”

Throughout the state, there are several ways for young people to get involved with nature programs and activities. Here are a few ideas for getting involved.

Arkansas Audubon Society and Its Chapters

The Arkansas Audubon Society and its local chapters hold a variety of programs for young people to encourage an interest in nature and conservationism, including the Halberg Ecology Camp, essay contests and school visits.

Families can attend meetings local chapter meetings to find ways to get their children involved with nature activities. Visit www.arbirds.org or www.wp.ascabird.org for more information.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Through the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in downtown Little Rock and other nature centers in the state, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers many programs for youngsters, including bird walks, fishing workshops, archery events, geocaching and more. Visit www.centralarkansasnaturecenter.com for a schedule.

For more information about the AGFC’s educational programs, including publications for youth, the Wings Over Arkansas Program for young birders and boating, hunting and fishing guides, visit www.agfc.com.

Little Rock Zoo

This year, the Little Rock Zoo’s Education Department added several new programs to help children and adults develop an appreciation for nature and conservationism, including “Raising a Wild Child,” a workshop for adults on nature-related activities for kids. Others include birding workshops, breakfast with the animals and the upcoming Animal Ambassadors show at the zoo’s Amphitheater.

For more details, visit www.littlerockzoo.com

Lil’ Wild Ones Nature Stories And Activities

How do they remember where they put them all?

January 11: This event will take place at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center (602 President Clinton Ave.). Event time: 2 p.m. Tag along with Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel as they scurry through their daily routine. These nervous nutcrackers are known to stash hundreds of acorns in secret hidey holes for later. How do they remember where they put them all? We’ll save that secret for the class. For more information, call 501-907-0636, ext. 104.

Eagle Awareness Weekend

January 11 & 12: Petit Jean State Park plans to kick off its 2014 Special Events and Activities with this event. Join us as we spend two days devoted to our national symbol, the bald eagle. A variety of programs are planned, including field trips to nearby Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge to look for wintering eagles and other birds. Contact the park at 501-727-5441.

Eagle Lake Cruise

January 4: Join Pinnacle Mountain State Park interpreters for a cruise on Lake Maumelle to seek wintering bald eagles. Dress in layers for extreme cold and windy weather. Advance payment is required. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children 6-12. For more information, call 501-868-5806.

Christmas In The Wild

December 7 and 14: Come meet Santa and enjoy treats, hot cocoa, arts & crafts, and join Santa as he presents gifts to the animals at the Little Rock Zoo! This event will take place between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Admission: member child $16.95, member adult $21.95, non-member child $18.95, and non-member adult $25.95. For more information call 501-661-7218.

Photo by Jaanus Silla

Winter Discovery Lake Cruises

December 7: Come prepared to discover Lake Maumelle as it springs to life, in the middle of winter! Pinnacle Mountain State Park and its surrounding water bodies host thousands of animals that have migrated south for the winter. A park interpreter will guide the way as we search for critters all kinds that spend the winter around the lake, hopefully even a few bald eagles. Dress for extremely cold and windy lake weather. Advance payment is required. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children ages 6-12. For more information and to make your reservation call 501-868-5806.

Photo by Linda Tanner

Cub Scout MASM Patch Day

November 16: A special event just for Cub Scouts. Each scout will earn a unique MASM patch, explore the Museum and special activity stations tailored to support a variety of merit badge requirements, and learn about other offerings for Cub Scouts. New to Cub Scout Day this year: Dinosaur exhibit, Mastodon Muck Citizen Science Project, and Tinkering Studio. RSVP by contacting the Educational Programs Coordinator at 501-767-3461 ext. 15 or via e-mail groups@nullmidamericamuseum.org.

Wetland Walk-A-Bout

November 10: The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock invites you to come by for a Wetland Walk-a-bout from 2 p.m. thru 3 p.m. every second Sunday, through November. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the Arkansas River Trail and on the William E. “Bill” Clark Presidents Park Wetlands boardwalk. This half-mile guided stroll will offer opportunities to view native plants and wildlife. Discover the benefits or wetlands and explore nature downtown. For more information about this event, please contact Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center at 501-907-0636.

Breakfast With Maned Wolves

November 2: Join the Little Rock Zoo for a delicious breakfast buffet in Café Africa and a unique keeper chat all about maned wolves. The Zoo highlights several animals during our breakfast series and provides guests with a special up-close-and-personal look at some of our most interesting creatures! Maximum capacity is 40 guests per breakfast, unless noted. Seating is very limited and prior reservations are a must! Breakfast with Animals starts at 8 a.m. sharp! Please be on time. Admission: Member Adult $16.95, Member Child $12.95, Non-Member Adult $21.95, and Non-Member Child $16.95. Reservation require a Visa, Master Card, or Discover Card. Changes or cancellations are accepted through the Friday before the event by 2 p.m. For more information or to make reservations, contact 501-661-7218.

Halloween Season Fun At Petit Jean

October 26: Celebrate the “spooky season” on Petit Jean Mountain! Family friendly, nature-related activities will be provided, and costumes are welcome. Contact the park for a schedule as the event draws near at 501-727-5441. Admission is free.