Ohio's young people are challenged to turn off their computers, televisions and video games and "Explore the Outdoors" this summer. The statewide campaign is an initiative of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and many of its recreational partners, including county and metro parks.
The challenge is aimed at reuniting children, especially those in elementary school, with the natural world in order to improve their physical and emotional health and make them better environmental stewards in the future.
National figures in the areas of public health and psychology note an increasing disconnect between today's youth and their natural world as a result of a growing preoccupation with electronics and indoor play. Author Richard Louv documented this disturbing trend in his award-winning book, "Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder."
Today's average elementary school child spends more than six hours a day playing video games, watching television or using a computer, according to national statistics. A 2007 study by the Ohio Department of Health showed more than 34 percent of the state's third graders were either obese or overweight. Sedentary activities and weight gain are known to have negative effects on children's long-term development. However, additional studies document that children who are in touch with their natural world are healthier, perform better in school and have better self-images.
"We want this campaign to ignite interest in the outdoors and help children experience the benefits of being connected with nature," said ODNR Director Sean D. Logan. "These activities will help them grow into healthy adults with an appreciation and love of their natural surroundings."
In an effort to counter this trend in Ohio children, ODNR distributed nearly 800,000 this week to public school students in grades K-5. The guides are the cornerstone of the "Explore the Outdoors" challenge and include 10 activities such as "Catch A Fish," "Hike/Bike A Trail," "Spot A Bird." Children are encouraged to complete eight of the 10 activities by September 1. "Explore the Outdoors" posters, featuring codes for each activity are located at welcome centers and kiosks in ODNR and partner facilities across Ohio.
Once an activity is completed, the child will enter the appropriate code in the guide. When all eight activities are completed, the child can enter the corresponding codes at exploretheoutdoorsohio.com to receive an Ohio Outdoor Explorer certificate. The first 1,000 children to obtain an online certificate will also be eligible to receive a Coleman mini companion lantern.
ODNR partners lending support to the campaign include the National Park Service, Audubon Ohio, Wayne National Forest, Leave No Child Inside - Central Ohio and Greater Cincinnati, the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, Ohio Metro and County Parks and the state departments of Health and Education. Sponsors contributing to the activity guide include the American Heart Association and Coleman.
Additional information about the campaign is available at exploretheoutdoorsohio.com