DRUMS – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti at Nescopeck State Park yesterday unveiled Kids in Nature, renewing a focus on getting Pennsylvania’s families to spend more time enjoying the outdoors.
To celebrate Earth Day, Ferretti spent an hour talking with the eighth grade students from the Hazleton Area School District attending a full-day program at the park about protecting watersheds.
“Well-documented statistics indicate our children are becoming increasingly disconnected from the outdoors,” Ferretti said. “At DCNR, we work daily to connect people of all ages to nature through the public lands we manage and help support in communities.
“Kids in Nature will step up our efforts to raise the awareness of existing opportunities for connecting children and their families to the wonders of nature and getting them actively involved in recreation, educational programs and environmental careers,” Ferretti said.
Many child advocates fear that the lack of outdoor activities has a devastating effect on children’s mental and physical health. Environmental stewards worry that the younger generations’ disconnect to the outdoors will mean as adults they will be less likely to be personally committed to the protection of our natural resources.
DCNR staff will spend much of this year learning from youth and elevating the awareness of existing opportunities to get kids outdoors.
“I plan on visiting schools and state parks and forest kid-focused events throughout this year to gain an understanding of what is keeping kids and their families from exploring nature. We’ll also be conducting a few contests this summer to draw attention to Kids in Nature,” Ferretti said. “Our intent is to have conversations with young people to find out their wants, likes and dislikes related to learning about nature and spending time outside.”
The department is launching a Web site – www.PaNatureKids.org – as a source of information for parents and teachers about where to go outside, and what to do when you get there.
“I believe that young people visiting our state parks and forests with their families, scout troops and schools, and participating in the unique programs we offer including Adventure Camps for kids from urban areas will come to know and love our natural resources and be advocates for their stewardship,” Ferretti said.
The secretary will attend a program with fifth graders at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County on May 15.