Get kids outdoors to explore and experience science

Outdoor activities allow youth to discover the wonder of nature and rekindle their connection with the outdoors.

Red-winged blackbirds perch atop cattails. Cottony seeds float silently to the ground. The sun heats the earth. Spring peepers sing into the night. Have you taken notice of these spring-time changes? Has your child or other youth you work with had the opportunity to note these seasonal changes? According to Michigan’s No Child Left Inside statistics, youth ages eight to 18, now spend six-and-a-half hours per day using their electronic media. The sources also states that they spend less than 30 minutes per week in unsupervised play outdoors. What might be the implications of these statistics? Why does it matter?

Connecticut Governor, M. Jodi Rell, initiated No Child Left Inside. It is “a promise to introduce children to the wonder of nature – for their own health and well-being, for the future of environmental conservation, and for the preservation of the beauty, character and communities.” Developed in response to what author, Richard Louv terms “a nature deficit” for today’s youth, it focuses on the fact that today’s youth, are spending much more time with technology rather than enjoying hours of play outside.

Now a nationwide initiative, the Michigan’s No Child Left Inside campaign’s vision states, “All children in Michigan should have access and opportunity to safely enjoy our state’s outdoor heritage.” The members of the Michigan No Child Left Inside coalition are committed to working to rekindle the connection between children and nature by promoting activities and policies for outdoor play, recreational opportunities, hands-on environmental education and increased knowledge about nature.

Along with allowing youth to play outdoors more, many community programs are available for youth to participate in. Check out Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s environmental education programs which offer the following opportunities: outdoor adventure/challenge, entomology, project FISH, shooting sports,junior citizen planner, the MI 4-H youth conservation council, the Great Lakes and Natural Resource Camp and TRACKERS. Parents and other adults can also become involved in these programs as volunteer chaperones or leaders. Check out MSU Extension’s Science and Technology site which provides programs and resources for you to incorporate more science into your programs or activities.

Many of your local 4-H groups host summer camping programs. Contact your local MSU Extension office to learn what is available or visit the Michigan 4-H website.

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