Kansas City, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) hosted 731 youths and adults from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City June 25-28 for outdoor fun in the woods and on water. The Discover Nature Field Day activities were held at MDC’s James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee’s Summit. Paddling canoes, touching turtles, and catching fish were among the activities, a first-time thrill for many of the youngsters.
“When a kid catches a fish they squeal, and they’re squealing with joy,” said Wendy Parrett, MDC conservation education consultant.
The annual event gets youngsters outdoors who are from kindergarten to high school age in a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City. Activity stations were set up at lakes on the Reed Area. Youths were divided by age groups and rotated to various stations. MDC’s staff got an assist teaching the youths from Missouri State Parks staffers, volunteers with the Missouri Master Naturalists program, and officers from the Independence Police Department. Warm weather didn’t slow down the youngsters, and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation donated $2,000 for water bottles the youths could carry and keep.
“We get them outdoors and active and the kids overcome fears of things like insects and water,” Parrett said. “They learn to experience nature that is not scary. They learn that nature is fun.”
Youths who are in kindergarten through second grade studied amphibians and reptiles, mammals, aquatic life, and prairie insects. They caught bluegill while fishing with cane poles at Cottontail Lake and enjoyed playing with natural items such as nuts and turtle shells.
Participants in grades 3-5 enjoyed a nature hike, aquatic studies, canoeing, and fishing at Bluestem Lake. The youths in grades 6-12 practiced target shooting with archery gear and air rifles. They also learned how to paddle canoes at Prairie Hollow Lake. The young anglers caught a few bass and catfish along with bluegill using spincasting gear in a catch-and-release fishing session.
The five Boys and Girls Clubs participating included Thornberry, Wyandotte County, Wagner, Independence and Hawthorne. For many youngsters at the field day it was their first time to paddle a canoe or catch a fish. But for others, they have attended each year and they remark that they look forward to new adventures like the nature hike in years to come, Parrett said.
MDC offers various outdoor skills education programs in the Kansas City area at the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs, the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City, the Lake City Shooting Range east of Independence, and the Parma Woods Shooting Range at Parkville. To check out these and other outdoor opportunities, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/events-s3.