Some lingering summer weather might help put the great in the outdoors as organizers prepare for the 16th annual Youth Outdoor Day being held Saturday at Luther Marsh.
Open to the public free of charge, the event focuses on connecting kids with their natural environment.
“We’re trying to spark a passion for the outdoors, and we wanted to teach kids about environmental stewardship, wildlife conservation – just get kids off of their cellphones and their electronics and just step outside and enjoy the outdoors,” says Sharon Grose, one of the lead organizers of the event.
The day is organized around stations that kids can choose to participate in. There are classes in marksmanship, from archery (both recurve and compound), to crossbows and even supervised target shooting with conventional firearms.
Beyond projectile-based fun, there are plenty of activities with a focus on the Canadian wildlife. John Power from the Cambridge butterfly sanctuary will teach kids about butterfly “banding,” where participants will tag butterflies and release them into the wild. Scientists can read these tags to study the provenance and far-flung migration patterns of these insects.
There will be demonstrations on pointer and retriever dogs by their handlers, educating kids on a profession and a skill set that they might not have even considered otherwise. The falconry club will be bringing their birds of prey by for kids to learn about. They will teach kids about the skill involved in training and caring for their falcons, as well as showing off some of their handling skills.
Talons and hooked beaks too much of a turn-off? Check out the World of Wood Ducks where the resident wood duck expert will teach youth about the colourful waterfowl that populates much of the continental United States and the southern fringes of Canada. Kids will learn about the animals and how to ensure these creatures continue to survive and thrive on Canadian waters.
And speaking of waters, no trip to Luther Marsh would be complete without learning about the accompanying waterways. There are classes on fishing, from learning the proper technique for a perfect cast to the successfully reeling that big one back in. A Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) biologist, meanwhile, will be on site to offer an instructions on Canada’s vast fish population.
MNRF employees will also be there to teach kids about other careers in the environmental sector. A conservation officer from the MNRF’s canine unit will be there with his pooch partner to show their role in managing the province’s forests and wilderness. The MNRF will also offer seminars on the species at risk and the conservation efforts behind them.
The University of Guelph’s BioBus will be making an appearance, members of the local trapping council, professional taxidermists and woodcarvers – kids will be able to build their own birdfeeders. By the end of the day, don’t be surprised if the kids return from Luther Marsh expert forest rangers, capable of lighting a campfire in a raging windstorm. Or, at the very least, that they’ll be coming home with a new appreciation for the Canadian outdoors and even an interest for careers out in the field.
The Outdoor Youth Day is running Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., rain or shine.
Grose says parents need to accompany participating children – both to ensure safety and to emphasize the family aspect of the activities. Lunch will be provided at no cost to participants.
“It’s all on a volunteer basis and we don’t charge for the day. Thanks to sponsors and community support we’re able to offer this opportunity to the youth.”
All of the activities are designed for 9- to 15-year-olds – with an accompanying adult. That’s key, explains Grose, because they want to emphasize activities like archery and target shooting on offer that can be dangerous. And secondly, they want to focus on activities that can be done with the family.
“It’s nice to see parents doing activities with their kids, because when they teach the fly-tying, they teach the kid and they teach the parent. And then they can go over, we have a pond that we’ve dug up at Luther Marsh, and they can actually go fishing for the day. And it’s nice to see parents and kids fishing side by side.”
Grose herself has been involved for 15 of the annual event’s 16 years, and she says the event has had more than 3,500 participants since it first began. Last year, they were recognized with the Grand River Watershed Award. She’s encouraging everyone to either register as a participant, or come out as a volunteer. She also says people can even donate to the event if they wish.
For those interested in signing up or volunteering, check out their website at www.youthoutdoorsday.com for more information.