Ohio >> Inspired by the League’s action-packed Youth Convention (held each year in conjunction with our national convention), the Wayne County Chapter is creating a program to engage Young Ikes year-round.
"When we got back from the 2016 national convention in Stevens Point, my daughter couldn’t stop talking about how much fun she had at Youth Convention with all the other Young Ikes," recalls Marjorie Hamers. "I wanted to get her more actively involved with conservation and nature (and away from the screen!). I thought, ‘What better way to do it than with the Ikes?’"
The Wayne County Chapter hosts a successful Youth Adventure Camp each June but did not have a formal program to engage kids the rest of the year. "I pitched the idea of a monthly youth activity to the Board and they told me to run with it," says Hamers. "My thought was that if we let the kids bring non-member friends, it would increase awareness of the League and hopefully bring in more young families, increasing our active membership and diversity." The chapter created a Facebook page specifically for the Young Ikes program to promote up- coming events and share event photos.
The first event was a creek walk. "We had fun walking in the creek, exploring all the creatures and plants we found. The kids seemed to enjoy it and we talked about what we all learned. The adults who came had a great time too," Hamers says. The group went on several hikes around the chapter property in the fall. One was a color hike in October to talk about the why leaves change color. "The other thing we did on the fall color hike was an exercise in cooperation. I had everyone bring one ingredient that would go in a trail mix, and we created a ‘friends mix’ for everyone to share after the hike." For another hike, Hamers planned a scavenger hunt to encourage youth to examine nature closely as they looked for specific items along the trail.
The Young Ikes program took a break during the holidays but is coming back strong in the new year. "We are really looking forward to our February event," Hamers says. "We are joining the Great Backyard Bird Count (gbbc.birdcount.org) and are also planning to build birdhouses to encourage nesting on the chapter property. The kids seemed very excited when we talked about it." As the weather warms up, Hamers plans to help the kids explore new spring plant and animal life.
"It’s been amazing," she says of the experience so far, "and I look forward to more events (and hopefully a few more parent volunteers!)."