By Forrest Fisher, with excerpts from NYSDEC
No matter what state you live in, children typically learn about conservation and the outdoors from adults who accompany them as they explore. Plenty of times the kids teach the adults as well as the adults teaching the kids! If you are looking for ideas on how to enjoy the outdoors with the young people in your life visit the web sites listed below.
New York State has provided a wonderful guideline for all other states to follow. Outdoor Discovery (http://www.dec.ny.gov/public/84455.html) is an online newsletter from the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (NYSDEC) for families. It encourages New Yorkers to explore outdoors and learn about the environment. Each issue introduces subscribers to a seasonal environmental topic or nature topic, suggests a related activity and lists family friendly events at DEC’s environmental education centers. DEC Outdoor Discovery is free and emailed to subscribers every other Wednesday, it also appears on DEC’s website.
DEC operates environmental education programs (http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/74.html) statewide. These include two environmental education centers from Albany to Buffalo, plus regional environmental educators who serve New York City, Long Island and Central NY.
The DEC’s residential environmental education summer camps (http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/29.html) have be operating for over 60 years. The camps serve boys and girls ages 11-17, who attend a week long program exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. Campers can even participate in a hunter safety class and receive their hunter safety certificate. The four summer camps are located across the state, two in the Adirondacks, one in the Catskills and one in Western New York.
National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their web site Be Out There (http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature.aspx) provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature. Using the “NatureFind” feature visitors can find outdoor activities in their area, and across the country.
Nature Rocks (https://www.natureworkseverywhere.org/home/) from the Children and Nature Network, The Nature Conservancy and R.E.I. provides ideas for exploring outdoors with children. They also offer a search feature to locate programs, sites and outdoor play groups, known as Nature Rocks Flocks in your area.