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.
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