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Connecting Kids Inside Out – Let’s Go Outside Event

Rock climbing wall

Rock climbing was popular this year.
 

Children learning boat safety

Children learned about watercraft safety when they climbed onboard.

On a rainy Saturday last September over 100 kids and parents from the greater Columbus metropolitan area gathered at Alum Creek State Park to play outside while learning about natural resources.  The annual “Let’s Go Outside” event, sponsored by government, non-profit, and corporate organizations, went on despite the rain, which eventually cleared. 

The Columbus-based non-profit, Connecting Kids Inside Out, organized the event to create a positive outdoor experience for inner-city youth ages 6 to 15, with a special emphasis on urban youth of color.  Inside Out’s spokeswoman Tamy Solomon said, “Urban youth of color, particularly African American youth, represent a vast untapped resource of talent, energy, creativity, and passion that can be leveraged through a relatively simple yet powerful shift in the relationship the youth have with the natural world and the natural resource community.”

Three years ago Inside Out held their first ‘Let’s Go Outside’ event.  Every year they add more recreational activities like bird watching, fishing, archery, leather crafting, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing.  Retrieving dogs demonstrated the dog’s ability to locate and return objects, offering an opportunity to teach about wildlife habitat, behavior, and conservation.  Each activity has a station, with a few educational stations mixed in to expose event participants to natural resource principles, including soil conservation. 

Exhibitors from the sponsoring organizations handed out information on the programs and services they offer to residents, and explained the types of jobs people do in the natural resource field. Staff from the sponsoring organizations joined Inside Out staff volunteering as activity leaders.

This year, graduate students at Ohio University piloted their new mobile media educational game called “Park Quest” at the event.  Event organizers and the graduate students collaborated to design the game with the objective of heightening youth interest in natural resources which could ultimately lead them to pursue advanced education and careers in natural resource fields.  The kids loved it! (read more about Park Quest)

Feedback gathered from event participants indicated both the kids and their parents enjoyed themselves and learned a lot.  One youth participant said, “I learned how to have fun with others outside and it was great, except the rain. But it was fun and muddy.”  A parent commented, “Thank you for giving both of my children the opportunity to join in for the “Inside Out” event. I was truly amazed at all of the great outdoor activities that the kids were engaged with for the day. It was also nice to hear all of the good feedback from my son and daughter about their experience exploring nature and even interacting with mobile learning games that were included as an activity. Rarely do they have the opportunity to assemble outside for a full day of play and fun without the distraction of new aged media and television at home. Programs likes Inside Out are definitely great for getting kids outside and away from wasting their day away glued to a video game or computer screen with no meaningful educational outcome.”

Let’s Go Outside was sponsored by:  the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hocking College, KBK Enterprises/The Heritage, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Divisions of Wildlife and Watercraft, Pheasants Forever Inc., Sam’s Club #6307, and Target District 444.

Learn more about the Park Quest Project