What a wonderful day we had on Sunday May 4th at Explore the Outdoors! Over 3500 people joined us here at the station and in Huguenot park to learn about all of the great outdoor, environmental and healthy living organizations we have in our community. Forty plus community partners engaged children and their parents in hands-on learning about nature and the world around them.
We learned about many things including snakes and raptors, bugs and bees, and rocks and fossils. We got to sit inside a 35 foot teepee and in a canoe and play with hula hoops and parachutes. We learned about pollinators and plants, got to climb trees and plant flowers, make art out of recycled materials and dig in the sand. We even got to have our photos taken with two beautiful mermaids, Curious George, Smokey the Bear and Mr. Slice. Learning how to use a bow and arrow, throw a tomahawk, and use a fishing rod were some of the many exciting activities of the day.
There was a Book Angel giving out free books to every child and readings and theater too. We took wildlife and bug walks and learned to find our way home with a compass and maps. We even found a hidden geocache in the park. We took tours of the television and radio studios and made lots of new friends.
You know an event like this is successful when you hear children and parents say "I don't want to go home!"
We would like to thank Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation for collaborating with us to create and organize this event and Virginia 529 College Savings Plan for their generous financial support. A special thank you goes to our wonderfully diverse group of organizations who made sure everyone had fun while learning new things and experiencing the great outdoors. Adventurers of all ages got their hands- actually got their whole bodies- involved in all of the fun activities. For more on the event and to see a list of all of the participating community partners please go to Explore the Outdoors.
Here are a few of the things people had to say about the day:
Hales Parcells as Mermaid Hales: "This is what Explore the Outdoors is all about - getting children excited about nature and the great outdoors, getting them up and active, and giving families an opportunity to bond and grow together by learning about the environment. Explore the Outdoors gives families a taste of how cool the world they live in really is."
Karen M. Layou, Professor of Geology, Reynolds Community College: "It was fantastic to see families out together, checking out the community partners displays, and learning more about the diverse opportunities and resources available in our area. As a science professor, it thrills me to see parents who are not only willing to encourage curiosity and wonder in their children, but also to provide the example of exploring their own interests."
Lauren Colie, VCU journalism student and Science Matters intern: "It's one thing for children to learn science in a classroom...it's quite another for a really excited volunteer to get down in the grass with them and look at their pet caterpillar under a magnifying glass and name it together. I think events like Explore the Outdoors send an excellent message of "we care about this community" and "we're doing our best to help this community and your children."
Kristin Mullen, Early Childhood Program Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: "Explore the Outdoors embodies exactly what we strive to do at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden – provide authentic experiences that connect people to the environment to improve our community. For the past two years, we’ve arrived at Explore the Outdoors with a van full of familiar, readily-available natural materials (sticks, moss, gum balls, grapevine, pine cones) and watched the creativity unfold as families spent un-structured time creating masterpieces of art and engineering out of underappreciated items. What's the best of all? When we overheared parents promising their kids that they could do the same thing once they got home. When children get excited about the natural world, they tend to care about the plants and animals in it. If the excitement level at Explore the Outdoors is any indication, the future’s in good hands!"
Denise Dowagiallo, Leader of Girl Scout Troop #5127: "My girls had so much fun! I am thrilled to have my troop be a part of such a positive event promoting the outdoors, nature and horticulture."
Cynthia Gibbs, Coordinator of Science PubRVA: Explore the Outdoors got both muscles and neurons firing! Not only was it fun, but all the one-on one encounters with professional scientists, graduate students, environmentalists and master naturalist citizen scientists sparked children to see themselves as capable of doing science.
Richard Reuse, Virginia Department of Forestry: "This festival is a great way for the Virginia Department of Forestry to reach and inform children, their parents and grandparents about the benefits of trees, the need for wildfire prevention and the importance of wise forest management."
Sue Brown, Director of The Center for Creative Arts and volunteer at Explore the Outdoors: "The hundreds of families I saw were so excited to see the station from the inside, to learn about green screens, and to be able to photograph their children there. There was a feeling of expectancy and joy - that they were sharing an educational day with their children that made them feel welcome and a part of the PBS community. It was a lot of fun to be part of an educational, free, community building event that made so many people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome, important, and involved in their children's education."
Thanks to everyone from Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager, Trish Reed, Ready to Learn Coordinator, and the entire staff of The Community Idea Stations.