North America is blessed with huge expanses of undeveloped, beautiful country. Many of these areas are protected as Wildlife Refuge areas, Wilderness Areas, National Parks, State parks, BLM land, or local parks. There are many ways to advocate on their behalf to ensure they exist for future generations. However, I believe the best way to secure their future is to let kids fall in love with them.
The generation growing up today has so many options for personal growth, entertainment, education, and exercise that spending time outdoors can be overlooked. Since I am a public school teacher, I have the opportunity to share with students many of the outdoor opportunities that exist here in Oregon.
At my last High School, we had an “Adventure Club” where we hiked, camped, rock climbed or just exercised. We even took a group of ten students on a spring break trip through Utah. On this trip, we camped, whitewater rafted the Colorado River, and mountain biked at Slick Rock in Moab. Then we went to Zion National Park where we navigated up The Narrows, hiked Angles Landing, and completed a neat technical slot canyon. Along the way, students learned more about social interaction, outdoor recreation, civic responsibility, and appreciation for protected outdoor landscapes than any classroom could have taught them. Currently at my present High School, we are planning a trip to the Sunriver Observatory for our “Astronomy Club”. We will hike at the Cove Palisades State Park, Smith Rocks, and near our campsite at LaPine State Park.
Since many outdoor enthusiasts do not have the daily opportunity for work with young adults, there are other ways to help share your passions and abilities. Multiple organizations exist with the sole purpose of educating kids about outdoor adventuring. A few of these are; The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Mazamas, Outward Bound, REI, and many privately owned outdoor schools. Anyone can either join one of these groups, or can encourage kids that you know to participate in them.
Another easy way to pass on an appreciation for the Great Outdoors is to travel with your immediate or extended family to these amazing places. I know that whenever family visits us in Oregon, we take the kids hiking, camping, and adventuring all over the area. When we lived in Michigan, we did the same thing with the wonderful beaches and dunes on Lake Michigan. Our nieces and nephews really seem to appreciate the eye opening experiences they’ve had on these trips.
Almost anyone touched by the great open spaces offered in our country feels strongly about protecting them. This can be done through political action, financial contribution, or by simply sharing them with the next generation of Americans. As long as these places are valued, they will remain protected.