DSC Getting Kids Involved in the Outdoors
What do you get when you mix enthusiastic educators with a love for the outdoors and an organization committed to educating today’s youth on the truths about conservation? You get a program that is so popular that it has a waiting list at the majority of schools where it is offered. As our society becomes more urbanized, most of today’s youth do not have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the wild lands that so many of us experienced as children. Students today have become disconnected from the land, and the idea of conserving habitat is about as natural as trigonometry. In an effort to stem this loss, the education coordinator in conjunction with public school educators and the Dallas Ecological Foundation developed the Outdoor Adventures program. Based upon tried and true conservation principles, the program was designed to reach students from 12-18 and expose them to all facets of the outdoors. From fishing to Dutch oven cooking, the Outdoor Adventures program gives students the opportunity to reach beyond the typical classroom experience. To learn more about the DEF's Outdoor Adventures program, go to: www.dallasecologicalfoundation.org The class is TEA approved and, judging from the size of the waiting lists that schools are reporting, one of the most popular offered. Why is it popular? According to an Outdoor Adventures' coordinator Scot McClure, it is about getting students involved.
“The course allows the educator the chance to impact a student's life with a hands-on creative approach to education. The student's involvement with the course encourages active participation and life-long educational skills.”
And this popularity is not only with the students. With the recent TEA changes to the graduation requirements, adding an additional year of math and science, educators are looking for something that can offer a break from these subjects and still be engaging for the students.
“With an increasingly rigorous graduation requirement for the high school students, the Outdoor Adventures course offers the student an outstanding opportunity for an engaging curriculum,” said McClure.
The DEF's Outdoor Adventures curriculum includes fishing, camping, orienteering, boater safety, hunter education, archery, CPR/First Aid survival skills, fly fishing and fly tying. All the equipment and training is available through Texas Parks and Wildlife Department programs and the teachers can choose any or all of the units to teach.
“Our programs are not intended to turn youth into hunters or shooters but rather to introduce them to the field sports and then let them make a choice as to their interests,” stated past Dallas Safari Club Executive Director Gray Thornton.
As an added bonus, the students that are enrolled in the class are given the chance to participate in the DSC's Shooting, Archery, Field, Excellency Trials for Youth (S.A.F.E.T.Y.) event. The students, along with one parent, are taken to Greystone Castle for a full day of hands-on field training. Here they are taught to shoot shotgun, pistol, rifle, muzzleloader, bow and arrow and crossbow. These skills, along with a comprehensive field exercise that promotes safety and hunting ethics, make for a full day of exhilarating learning.
And just how important are youth programs like this? A recent study by Cornell University showed that children who hunt, fish or play in the wild are more likely to develop a deeper understanding and respect for nature as they grow older. And the younger they are introduced to these activities, the better. Currently, there are more than 60 middle and high schools in Texas involved in the program, with more coming online in the near future. The Dallas Safari Club's commitment to this type of program is significant:
“Since its inception in 1999, the Dallas Safari Club's Youth Fund have succeeded in helping to introduce more than 49,000 boys and girls to the wonders of the outdoors and shooting sports through our three-tiered youth initiative that includes educating secondary school youth in the classroom (DEF's Outdoor Adventures), providing firearm and archery use and safety training (S.A.F.E.T.Y. Extravaganzas) and sending boys and girls on hunting and fishing adventures throughout Texas and Oklahoma. They have traveled as far north as Alaska, and as far south as South Africa (Youth Hunt Program).” Thornton continued, “Our recent grant and partnership with Toyota will introduce 40,000 Texas youth each year to archery through our sponsorship of the Archery in Schools program.”
“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet
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