Local nature club gets children outdoors
Two-year-old Bailey Wagner, of Craig, ran shrieking out of the Yampa River.
“There was a fish in there!” she said, teeth chattering.
But she wasn’t scared.
After trembling on the beach for a moment, she announced she was going to find more fish and ran back into the river to splash around with 10 other children.
Although the fish hunt had dissolved into chaotic splashing and wet clothes, the Kids Nature Club was achieving its goal.
“The idea is just to get kids outside,” event organizer Robyn Morris said. “They’re just inside too much these days.”
The Kids Nature Club has met most Wednesdays since May at various hiking spots across the Craig area. On Wednesday, the group met behind the Yampa Valley Golf Course for a short walk along a dirt road and a play session at a sandy beach along the Yampa River.
Morris said children of all ages are welcome, and as more older children attend, there will be options for longer hikes and different activities.
As far as she can see, the children love the activities, such as catching frogs at Yampa River State Park or looking for mushrooms on a hike.
“It’s been awesome,” said Bailey’s mother, Lisa Wagner, who stood by the edge of the water watching her two children. “We’ve made it to a couple of them. It really gets them looking around, looking for stuff on the ground.”
Her son, Tallyn, 4, said he wants to be a lifeguard someday and that he loves being outside.
“I like the fishes,” he said. “The little tiny fishes in there. And I like the little crab fish.”
He also enjoys his swim lessons and practicing his “fishy turns,” which he demonstrated on the sandy beach.
He said he does spend some time inside watching TV, however, he enjoys both indoor and outdoor activities equally.
Among random shouts of “I found a fish,” and “Look, it’s a bird,” Morris managed to collect all of the children to venture over to a still wading pool to look for crayfish.
Morris’ son, 3-year-old Jesse, knew exactly where the crayfish were and led the way with his too-big sunglasses falling off his face.
“I see a dead one,” he said, pointing, and all 10 children suddenly were quiet as they stood looking at old crayfish shells.
“Some of them might have grown out of their shells,” Morris said. “And look at all the minnows over there.”
But at that moment, Tallyn decided he wanted to catch one and splashed into the water.
Morris, who is an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management, takes time out of her work schedule to organize and lead the nature club.
She said it is important to the preservation of public lands.
“Federal land agencies are concerned that kids won’t know public lands,” Morris said.
“And if they don’t know their public lands, they can’t be advocates for them when they’re older.”
She has started an online blog that includes pictures from past events and directions for future meetings. She is open to ideas concerning new locations and activities for kids to be outside and learn about the environment.
“This is when they are learning,” she said, gesturing around at the children sprinting up and down the dirt road. “It’s when they’re out in nature, not being sat down and told that the polar bears need to be saved.”
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