The columbine  is one of the easily-recognized flowers most often spotted at higher elevations around the valley. Deer have chewed off the flowers  from two of these stems.

The columbine is one of the easily-recognized flowers most often spotted at higher elevations around the valley. Deer have chewed off the flowers from two of these stems.

Trail Mix: Youngsters need to connect with nature

Columnist Judie Steeves says kids should put down their high-tech toys and experience the outdoors.

Before today’s electronic gadgets got in the way, we were naturally much closer to nature.

As kids, we didn’t have a choice between going outside to play and playing indoors with a device that had programs that simulated the outdoors.

There’s no substitution for the real thing.

Yet today, we’ve embraced the idea of amusing, educating and even babysitting our children with electronics instead of the real world.

The results are going to be catastrophic unless we take action immediately to introduce those youngsters to bugs and plants, birds and beasts, rocks and dirt, fish and frogs.

Before the era of these plug-in toys, young engineers first got interested by building dams in the mud, using the hose to provide the water it held back and learning how diversions would reduce the stress on that dam. Heck, I did too, and I never went into engineering.

Young biologists first got the itch by catching bees in bottles and watching them live or die. It was a childhood pastime of mine too.

Early lessons in fish biology came from cleaning the fish we caught when we went out on the lake, and examining their stomach contents so we knew what to use on the end of the line next time.

Sunday drives showed us how the landscape changed in the Okanagan when we drove uphill, with grasslands replaced by pines, firs, then spruce; mariposa lilies by columbines, lupines, and mountain heather—even as the air became crisper and cooler.

Everyday activities actually taught us about nature and its cycles of life, without us realizing what we were learning.

But today, we must make an effort to drag our young people away from the television, computer, iPod and iPad, electronic games and sounds, to participate in the real world of watching spiders weaving their intricate webs, building muddy dams to break, picking wildflowers to arrange, enjoying the song of the meadowlark, seeing a doe suckle her fawn, or a fish laying its eggs in a gravel bed.

We need to re-connect a new generation to its roots.

And, that’s exactly what members of the Oceola Fish and Game Club plan to do on Sunday, with the inaugural Community Youth Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the club’s Winfield Creek Wildlife Habitat Preserve on Bottom Wood Lake Road.

Families are invited to come and enjoy a multi-faceted day experiencing a variety of outdoors activities, from fly casting or tying flies to learning about the kokanee’s life cycle; shooting targets with a bow and arrow to a treasure hunt searching for moose, elk and deer antlers along the pathways on the preserve.

Although those paths are not really suitable for strollers or for toddlers’ little feet, somewhat older youngsters will be introduced to birds such as grouse and pheasant, chickadee and junco as well as larger critters such as bears and other wildlife species.

Organizer Sean Richardson, the club’s youth director, says it’s important that we raise the next generation to become stewards of the natural environment so that its future is assured.

Without introducing them to the issues, they won’t grow up to conserve/steward the resource, he reasons.

Club president Jared Wilkison says this is just the first event to be held by the club to help get kids engaged in outdoors activities so they begin to value nature. It is those who are passionate about hunting and fishing who are also passionate about habitat conservation.

He’s hoping events such as this will provide opportunities for those in the community who might not otherwise be exposed to such outdoor experiences.

Because this is a nature preserve there are dangers such as stinging nettle which they will be warning youngsters about, and proper footwear, hats and sunscreen are important to bring.

Club volunteers will provide a barbecue lunch.

It’s a drop-in day, with a variety of stations where the young people can try their hand at using a bow and arrow to shoot at targets, using one of the National Archery in the Schools program kits.

The day is being sponsored by the Urban Systems Foundation. If you have questions, contact Richardson at 317-2233.

Good on the hard-working volunteers from the Oceola club for all their effort to put this together.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.

Kelowna Capital News