We believe that families provide the strong foundation
a child needs to explore and champion the outdoors.
As part of April's Let's G.O.! initiative, we have played, served, and celebrated at Cedar Hill State Park and Lake Mineral Wells State Park. Because families are so important, our project takes underserved families camping with the Texas Outdoor Family (TOF) program with a $2,500 grant. This project was made possible by a grant from Outdoor Nation.
It is so important for kids to get outside. They learn, experience, and build their own knowledge and schema for the world around them, which can translate into other areas of their life, such as home and school. So many kids today are not getting outside and it is up to the youth of today (the millenials) to change this trend. Children today don't understand their connection to the land and Let's G.O.! is a great way for us to get those kids into nature. We strive to help Texas Outdoor Family connect more families to nature during their multigenerational workshops.
During the creation process of the project, a main priority for North Texas Kids Outside was to increase the diversity of the families that participate in the Texas Outdoor Family workshops. I am Hispanic and wanted to see more people who look like me supporting our state parks and enjoying outdoor activities. More than half of the families we have served are Hispanic. We have also served African-American and Middle Eastern families. All cultures deserve, and in my opinion need, a connection to the outdoors. It is truly magical to watch kids of different race, ethnicity and hometowns play together during the TOF workshops. Sometimes, they don't even speak the same language verbally, but they each know the language of discovery and play just fine!
Let's G.O.! helps us foster this connection to nature and each other by giving us the tools and resources to host and publicize events in our community for diverse audiences. We all need the outdoors, whether it be kayaking, hiking, or simply reading a book or having a picnic on the grass. We have been so pleased to be able to help families connect to nature this April.
On April 6-7, 2013 we took 3 lovely families camping with TOF for their very first time! They experienced setting up a campsite, learned about the Leave No Trace principles, and had tons of fun while fishing, playing near the lake's shore, and geocaching. Our youngest camper was a handsome 2-month old boy with a smile that will melt your heart (see the pictures below). My project provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the families during their overnight trip. I've noticed that the most team-building bonding, and sharing between and within families has happened during meal times on our camping trips. Food really does bring people together!
Our last camping trip of the year, using our grant funds, happened just this past weekend, April 12-14, 2013. It was a 2-night adventure at Lake Mineral Wells State Park and we could not have asked for more beautiful families and fantastic weather. The families in attendance would once again be setting up camp for the first time and experiencing outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, geocaching, and rock climbing. Lake Mineral Wells State Park has a wonderful area called Penitentiary Hollow, where you can find
novice rock climbers as young as 2 years old. Each family tried the activities and shared duties at their camp, such as cleaning and cooking. One of the father's in our family kayaked for his first time and let us know that he may have found a new hobby. HOORAY!
It's always so rewarding to serve families that are experiencing something for the first time. Texas Outdoor Family is a valuable resource for families who want to become more experienced in camping and outdoor activities at state parks very close to their homes. There is a magical feeling when the children first begin to explore the state park and campsites. They go from being intimidated and sometimes scared to becoming free spirits that want to touch, see, and smell everything around them. We had many explorers in our group. It was a beautiful weekend for connecting families to the outdoors.
Please visit our Facebook page to see pictures of both camping trips, which I will post within a few days. https://www.facebook.com/NorthTexasKidsOutside
You may also visit our blog, which has more information about our project and a very special reflection from one of the families we served in December 2012. http://www.ntkidsoutside.org/2013/01/the-holloway-familys-recap-of-...
We are blessed to have been able to have such a great year with Texas Outdoor Family, Outdoor Nation, and the Let's G.O.! initiative.
See you outside,
I really love the work that you're doing! I wish I had time to do more myself!