Nature Center Promotes Outdoor Education

by Chase Gage
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO — Summer is coming and children across the nation need activities to fill their time other than cellphones and tablets. The Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center offers several educational programs for children and adults alike over the break.

In a world of technological overload, screens dominate while nature sits on the backburner. The Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature center is combating this issue through various educational programs in hunting, fishing, trapping and more.

Lifelong outdoor enthusiast and Education Program Specialist Cody Walker said he hopes to spread his passion for the outdoors through programs at the nature center.

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One of the many animals on display at the Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center is a coyote, a canine species found in Northeast Arkansas. This display, along with several others, functions as a learning mechanism for visitors at the center. (Photo by Chase Gage)

“I didn’t have a cellphone until college. I went outside to play. My parents wouldn’t allow me to stay inside and I see that trend declining. It’s important to get kids and adults outside doing these activities not because it’s my job, but because it’s a passion for me. I like passing that (passion) on to other folks,” Walker said.

The nature center provides programs across the outdoor spectrum, from Hunter and Boating Education courses to simple fish feedings. Two programs available during the spring were the “Crankin’ Good Time” introduction to fishing course, where participants learned the basics of fishing and get to create a unique fishing lure to take home, and a “Turkey Fan Seminar” that taught hunters how to mount their trophy gobblers.  

Watching screens can be addictive. Studies conducted by Dr. Piush Mandane, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, conclude that screen time in children can be directly linked to ADHD.

“Children should develop a healthy relationship with screens as young as 3-to-5 years of age,” Mandhane said in an interview with ABC News. “Our data suggests that between zero and 30 minutes per day is the optimal amount of screen time.”

With screens dominating American society, it can be hard to escape them. Televisions, tablets, cellphones and more have made their way into nearly every aspect of life. 

Some local parents are facing this issue head-on, using the nature center as an outlet for education and an escape from the digital world. Kalob Welch, a history teacher at Blytheville High School, took his 4-year-old daughter, Arden, to the center as a Saturday getaway.

“She loves being outside, she loves animals. I think it’s important for kids to get outside. We need a healthy balance (of outdoors and technology). It’s definitely nice to bring her out here to exert some of her energy,” Welch said.

The nature center provides several classes every Saturday and Sunday year-round.

This summer, residents of Northeast Arkansas have the opportunity to go outside and experience the beauty of the natural world around them, or to stay inside and strengthen addictions to screens.

Watch the full interview with Walker here.

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