Conservation Kids, a Five Rivers MetroParks program, teaches youngsters how to confidently explore and care for the outdoors – and how to inspire others to do the same.
The program takes kids through those first baby steps of exploring creeks and forests all the way to hosting nature-themed parties to share their experiences with friends. “We feel kids can grow to be conservation advocates,” says Joshua York, education supervisor at Five Rivers MetroParks.
York said some children must first overcome fears and discomfort that come with nature exploration through such activities as hiking at night, holding crawdads and getting muddy and wet. “When they first hold a crawdad, we celebrate that,” he says.
Conservation Kids’ three levels of programming are designed for three age groups: tikes (ages 3 to 5), explorers (6 to 9) and voyagers (10-13). The levels are:
- GREEN LEVEL:Discover. Kids become comfortable outdoors by interacting with wildlife, playing in creeks and going on owl walks.
- BLUE LEVEL: Act.Kids learn to protect nature, develop ownership, become citizen scientists and give back through activities such as frog surveys, monitoring bluebird boxes and planting seeds.
- ORANGE LEVEL:Share. Kids share knowledge with the community and become a conservation leader among their peers by hosting an event, such as a spider party or backyard bird count, that rallies other kids around conservation and challenges them to get out in nature.
- YELLOW LEVEL:Protect. Kids now have completed the program and can build conservation into their daily activities and have the option to be a Youth Volunteer for Five Rivers MetroParks.
Kids complete two programs at each level before moving on to the next stage. Once they have completed the third level, they earn a Conservation Kids hooded sweatshirt.
The parks piloted the program last year. Some participants who completed the steps are returning to volunteer. York says, “It’s all about building their experiences, confidence and leadership skills so they feel empowered to help their peers protect nature.”
To learn more and register for Conservation Kids programs, visit www.metroparks.org/kids.