Just as Christopher Columbus explored the new world, thrilled to discover its natural beauty -- the National Wildlife Federation has created a program that encourages families to discover and reconnect with nature by participating in the first annual Make Tracks! Family Trail Weekend™, October 11-13, Columbus Day Weekend. NWF is hoping families will trade some screen time for green time by walking, biking, hiking or strolling on the trails and paths right outside their front door.
NWF has taken the leg-work out of preparing for this fun family outing. A new web site, maketracks.org, provides a list of supplies, tips for family-friendly activities, and a link to NatureFind, a terrific database to locate the best nearby trails, walking paths and parks, just by entering your zip code. With today’s high gas prices, discovering nature where you live has even more benefits.
Haven’t hiked much, or ever? No problem, you don’t need to be an expert or in top physical condition to enjoy the outdoors. Have small children? Grab the stroller. Your outing can be as long or as short as you want. Be part of a growing movement in the U.S. to rediscover the outdoors – and realize the benefits of stepping away from the computer or TV or video game and breathing some fresh air while experiencing the wonders of nature.
Make Tracks! is part of National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour® campaign which urges parents to give their kids a daily dose of nature – unstructured time for children to leave homework, piano lessons and soccer practice behind to play outside and discover the freedom it provides. This time can improve both physical and mental health for adults and kids alike. The alarming spike in childhood obesity has revealed the true cost of a “plugged-in” lifestyle.
“This antidote to our plugged-in kids is critical,” says Bethe Almeras, Senior Manager of Family Programs for the National Wildlife Federation. “Kids today spend half as much time outdoors as children did just 20 years ago.”
So be an explorer like Christopher Columbus. The natural beauty of America awed the 15th-century navigator – here is what he wrote in his journal:
October 28, 1492 -- “At sunrise I approached the coast and entered a very beautiful river free from dangerous shoals. The water all along the coast is deep and clear right to the shore. The country around the river is full of trees, beautiful and green and different from ours, each with flowers and its own kind of fruit. There are many birds of all sizes that sing very sweetly. The crew of the Nina stated that they had seen a grajao (a large black bird like a crow) or water-wagtail, which never go farther than 25 leagues from land.”
Put your best foot forward this Columbus Day and visit maketracks.org. Register your family and join the thousands of parents who have become members of the Green Hour movement. More information and a weekly guide to outdoor fun can be found on greenhour.org.