Kansas City Youth Overcome Fears and Enjoy Nature

“How big will the piranhas be?”

Submitted by Outdoor Afro Brandon Pope, CIG, Education Specialist at the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center. His blog exemplifies the need for relevant outdoor leadership to help youth feel more comfort and at ease to explore nature for the first time. Click to enlarge the wonderful pictures below:

Our agency recently hosted a three days/two nights float trip on the Current River in Southeast Missouri for 33 boys from Kansas City. None of them had ever tried any type of outdoor recreational activities outside of sports. So camping, canoeing, and many other aspects of the float trip were foreign to all of them. The river was a perfect body of water to take the boys as it is spring fed, thus always cool, slow flowing, and for the most part no more than 3-4 feet deep. The mild river conditions were important as the boys’ biggest fear was falling in as many could not swim.
Before the trip, we prepped the boys by taking them to Missouri Department of Conservation areas to show them how to set up a tent, become oriented with canoeing, and convey to them what to expect on the trip. Probably the most common question I received was “How big will the piranhas be?” that reflected their lack of experience exploring the natural world, and some sensationalized wild animal knowledge based on what they had seen on television.
Probably the most rewarding aspect of the trip was seeing the boys get over their fears and genuinely embrace the experience. Some boys fell in love with fishing. When one of the kids caught a trout, several other boys instantly picked up rods inspired to do the same. And non-swimmers became comfortable enough to enjoy floating in the water downstream with life jackets on.  Although at the end of our three-day trip EVERYBODY (staff included) was ready to go home, I’m proud know we gave the boys an experience they’ll never forget.