Step Outside to See What You Can See

Want to hear something positive? The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) believes that America’s youth are quickly defining themselves as one the most civic-minded generations in nearly a century. The NWF, in collaboration with its partners, supports empowering young people to respond to local needs through service projects and programs that encourage civic engagement.

This week, April 19-27, is National Wildlife Week. You can still register for their Conservation Action Guide on their Web site. The guide offers tips for projects about climate changes, creating healthy habitats, and connecting people with nature.

There is a theory that today’s youngest generations are suffering from “nature deficit disorder.” Sometimes it means they are actually afraid to go outside. In other cases, it means they just have no interest in the natural world. Today’s overscheduled kids are increasingly “plugged in” to electronic devices and unplugged from nature. People are spending less time outside today than ever before — and that needs to change if we want our children to care about nature and wildlife.

What energizes your family and kids to get outside? The NWF wants to get families and kids outside because they believe that’s the only way we are going to cultivate a love of nature and wildlife in young people. They have put together a daily calendar of activities for families and kids in hopes of getting kids outside having fun for at least one hour per week, what we call a “Green Hour.” By giving children a daily green hour — a bit of time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world — we can help reverse the nature-child disconnect.
I picture the young generation (my girls included here) driving from one place to the next so focused on their destination and the objectives in store there that they fail to notice the natural world they pass through. I can only hope I have been, and continue to be, passionate enough to have enticed them those times I remember to “smell the roses” and take note of nature’s wonders. From the beauty of a tiny bug or the way the petals of a bloom unfurl to a spectacular sunset, or a mesmerizing moonlit sky, it’s out there every day if we look around us.

Being a citizen naturalist is more than observing the beauty of nature around you. It is going outside and interacting with the environment. It means doing what you can to help wildlife and the various ecosystems to thrive and grow. There are any number of things you can do that may shape the existence of a species or sway the balance of an ecological system. Participate in Nature QuestSM Wildlife Watch and observe and report on the wildlife and plants where you live! Wildlife Watch is a national, nature watching program created for people of all ages. This event happens quarterly, marking each season. Through Wildlife Watch, you’ll gain first hand experience with plants and animals in their natural environments.

When you record your observations, National Wildlife Federation and their Wildlife Watch partners collect and review your findings so they may track the health and behavior of wildlife and plant species nationwide. Invite your family and friends to participate.

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