Kansas Wildscape, Wildlife and Parks events held statewide throughout summer
LAWRENCE — The Kansas Wildscape Foundation works closely with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) on a number of programs, but Outdoor Kansas for Kids (O.K. Kids) may do more than any other to help promote the department’s mission “to instill an understanding of our responsibilities to the land.” O.K. Kids gets youngsters outside and into nature in ways that can make a lasting impact on their lives.
Most kids no longer grow up in rural environments where knowledge of wildlife and the land are sewn into the fabric of their lives. That’s where O.K. Kids comes in. The program’s mission is “to provide multiple outdoor recreation opportunities for Kansas youth with adult partnering and mentoring to encourage outdoor recreational opportunities and promote and provide an active lifestyle as an alternative to sedentary activities.”
That’s good news for kids and conservation of the land. O.K. Kids covers the entire state of Kansas. Most events are held at the Kansas state parks, but other venues, such as city and county parks and recreation departments and private sites also hold O.K. Kids events. More than 50 sites host O.K. Kids events annually. Participation has steadily grown, with more than 13,000 Kansas youth and their parents or grandparents enjoying the outdoors at 46 different sites across Kansas in 2010. Events are free to all participants and open to all.
Through these events, youth learn about Kansas natural resources and wildlife primarily through games and activities. Staff at each site determine specific activities offered to participants based on local resources and perceived community interests and needs. Kansas Wildscape Foundation provides the operating manuals, event signage, free participant caps or T-shirts, gifts, and prizes, as well as overall organizational, promotional, and marketing support. Not all activities are nature-oriented, but all are outdoors in settings that expose youth to nature. Events include activities such as fishing derbies and clinics, wingshooting instruction, horseshoes, mini-triathlons, scavenger hunts, volleyball, sack races, archery, bird watching, birdhouse building, hiking, bike safety clinics, outdoor cooking contests, and much more.