Unplugging kids: The Eco-Bus challengeWORTHINGTON — As I was sitting on a stump last Saturday taking a breather from my rabbit hunting activities, I remembered a commercial from many years ago that played for quite some time on television. This was back when you only got three channels and that was only if the aluminum foil on the rabbit ears antenna was aimed just right.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — As I was sitting on a stump last Saturday taking a breather from my rabbit hunting activities, I remembered a commercial from many years ago that played for quite some time on television. This was back when you only got three channels and that was only if the aluminum foil on the rabbit ears antenna was aimed just right.
The commercial started out with a really old Native American Indian pictured with a tear running down his cheek as he looked at a badly polluted stream full of garbage. The moral of the story was that everyone needed to care about the environment, and that we should all work together to keep it protected.
I don’t think I was older than maybe six or seven at the time. I can’t really put my finger on why this commercial stuck in my memory for over 40 years, but it makes me wonder who in today’s world are going to be the ones who champion for the protection of all things wild.
There was a book that came to my attention called “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”. It was written by Richard Louv. In this book, it quotes a youngster who was asked where he would most like to play, inside or outside. This youngster’s answer should cause concern for anyone who treasures the natural resources that surround them. The child’s answer was he would much rather play inside than outside because all of the outlets are inside.
The plugged-in world that kids live in today leaves little room for the opportunity to experience the outside world and develop a connection that will foster respect and appreciation for nature in adulthood.
X-box, MP-3, Nintendo, and the long laundry list of electronic gadgets are the dictionary that most kids now use and understand better than any adult of my generation.
Who will teach them the outside stuff?
Hunting and sporting groups are trying, and succeeding, in some fashion, but when every kid goes to school five days a week learning reading, writing and arithmetic, the time and resources for this important topic often gets left on the sidelines.
I had the opportunity to visit with Crystal Dunker, who is the executive director for the Prairie Ecology Bus Center, and I was really excited to learn that there was an organization trying very hard to teach what I call the outside stuff.
The hub of this program is a bus that has been converted to a mobile ecology center to take children out in the elements and expose them to all things wild. This bus is responsible for exposing approximately 10,000 children to wetlands, prairies, and a wide variety of subjects all connected to the outdoors each year.
The majority of participating children are in the 3rd through 6th grades, but the program does cover all ages.
The mission statement of the Ecology Bus, in layman’s terms, is to get kids excited about where they live and to help them develop a stewardship that desires to protect our wild areas.
It is a stand-alone outfit that relies on private donations for much of its operating capital —with the balance coming from other fund-raising efforts and fees they charge to those who participate in their programs.
The bus runs almost every day in the spring and fall. These bus programs are in addition to the full slate of year-around programs that center out of their headquarters in Lakefield. The bus works all over the area, which includes all or portions of 25 counties.
I was really excited after learning about all of the events and programs with which the Ecology Bus is involved. A list of all of available programs is longer than I can list here, but you can see them on their web site at www.ecologybus.org.
After my visit with Crystal, it was very easy for me to make my contribution to the cause, and you can do the same by sending your check to Ecology Bus Center PO Box 429, Lakefield, Minnesota.
The other thing that you can do is to encourage your school or youth groups to use the Ecology Bus or continue to do so if they already do.
If you would like more information about any of these programs you can also call 507-662-5064.
Kids in the outdoors can only be a positive for the future of our natural resources.
If we do not find a way to promote the preservation of our natural resources, sooner rather than later, we will all look like that native Indian with a tear running down his cheek. And by that time, it will most likely be too late.