Kids love the outdoors – if you give them a chance

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February 17th, 2009

They “got outdoors,” and so did their kids.

It is amazing what a great teacher Mother Nature is. Before long, the kids were enjoying unstructured play in the open desert. They were playing in the dirt, collecting rocks, smashing rocks (looking for crystals), finding bugs, and all sorts of fun kid stuff not dependent on electricity, remote controls or television.

It was kind of like Discovery Channel – but in real life.

“Lessons learned at events like this set the foundation for good citizens, respect for wildlife and the environment,” said Kellie Tharp, environmental education program manager with Game and Fish.

To provide other activities for the kids during the cleanup, the Game and Fish Department brought out a number of wildlife educational materials, including animal bone boxes, live wildlife and a BB-gun trailer. The bone boxes contain the hides, skulls, rubber tracks, and pictures from a variety of Arizona animals. The live animals on hand from the department’s Wildlife Center included hawks, owls, raptors, a Gila monster, snakes, and one jumpy antelope squirrel.

“I have kids, too, and I know they need lots of distractions,” said Craig Heath, Game and Fish wildlife manager. “Both the animal boxes and live wildlife are always a big hit. And the older kids love our BB-gun trailer, where they learn how to shoot safely from our instructors.”

During these times of economic uncertainty, there is one core thing that never comes off the budget list, and that’s spending quality time with your family.

Tharp adds, “These outings are a chance for some quality family time, as well as some good old-fashioned ‘getting dirty’ exercise.”

To learn more about the department’s environmental education program, visit www.azgfd.gov/focuswild.

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