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Win the Outdoor Challenge

Posted Monday, June 25, 2012, at 3:31 PM

Children who get outdoors and take part in nature are typically healthier and happier according to recent studies. Help fight Nature Deficit Disorder and take the Outdoor Challenge in southeast Missouri.
Like to fish, camp, take nature photos, play in creeks, hike and give back to nature? Whether you're a pro or a novice when it comes to outdoor skills, you can take the Outdoor Challenge in southeast Missouri and win a backpack full of outdoor materials.

The contest, which has new challenges and winners every two weeks, is posted at this link and is intended to remind parents that summer is the right time to help children discover nature. The idea for the contest came from Missouri Department of Conservation Education Consultant, Bridget Jackson, who is passionate about getting children back outdoors.

"Summer used to be a time of playing in creeks, catching bugs and discovering whatever was right out the backdoor," Jackson said. "When I was a kid we spent more hours outside than in."

Jackson said now only 25 percent of children play outside and many spend less than 10 minutes outside per day. When they're not in school, American children typically spend seven to eight hours with electronics. The most shocking statistic she's found is that by the time most children begin kindergarten, they've logged 5,000 hours of television watching.

"That's enough hours to earn a Bachelor's degree," she said.

Jackson, and her colleagues at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, subscribe to ideas first put forward in the books, Last Child in the Woods, and The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv. Along with the statistics Jackson mentioned above, Louv describes the resulting societal disconnect from the natural world and trends seen by parents and educators in both books. He coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder.

"People, especially kids, pay a high price for not spending time outside," Jackson said.

For example, children who use media at least 16 hours per day are typically "C" grade students or lower, according to recent studies. These youths were more likely to report they were bored, sad, didn't get along well with their parents and were not happy at school. Nature deficit disorder is linked to an increased risk of asthma, near-sightedness, obesity, ADHD, and depression.

"Many children know more about animals on different continents than what is in their own backyards and they don't understand where their food, heat, leather, and other materials come from," Jackson said.

To gain awareness for Nature Deficit Disorder, Jackson coordinated The 2012 Outdoor Challenge as a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation and KFVS-12. The purpose for the Outdoor Challenge is to promote family involvement in outdoor activities for a period of three summer months: June, July, & August. The contest consists of six 2-week contests where participants meet a designated outdoor challenge, then post their photos. Votes are submitted on the website to decide winners for each contest.

This is the list of challenges:

1.Go fishing
2.Go camping
3.Take a picture of nature
4.Play in a creek
5.Take a hike
6.Pick up trash

Full information is found on the KFVS-12 contest page. Jackson said meeting these challenges could start many new family traditions.

"Winners of the contest will be awarded backpacks filled with fun conservation items to help improve their outings," Jackson said. "But really, everyone who participates will win as they enjoy time in the outdoors and truly improve their total quality of life."

The second challenge is currently underway, so Jackson encourages the community to get outdoors quickly to meet the 2012 Outdoor Challenge.

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Discover Nature
Candice Davis
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Candice Davis is the Media Specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation's Southeast and Ozark regions. Though raised to appreciate the Missouri outdoors, Candice is discovering nature on a new and exciting level as she gets up close and personal with snakes, insects, and Southeast Missouri's diverse landscape. Her goal is to share her learning experiences and show Southeast Missourians how they're directly connected to their land.
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