“I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir when I say the outdoors is good for you. We’ve all enjoyed a sunrise in the woods, an afternoon on the lake or simply a morning cup of coffee on the porch. The outdoors is commonplace for most of us. But the national trend over the last 20 to 30 years says something different for the youngest citizens. More time in front of TVs, computer screens and video game consoles has meant less time outside playing tag or digging in the dirt. Electronics are not the only culprits. Now more than ever, kids’ schedules are packed with ballgames, piano recitals and homework — all wonderful components to a well-rounded childhood. What’s missing is time to discover the great outdoors.”
This quote is from Christine Rolka who is the Director of Education for the National Wild Turkey Federation.
In case you haven’t heard of it, the National Wild Turkey Federation is one of the pre-eminent conservation organizations around. They are no “newcomers” to the efforts to get kids out into the out-of-doors.
Starting in 1981, the federation, working through their local chapters has connected hundreds of local kids to the outdoors since through their JAKES program. JAKES, which stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship, is dedicated to informing, educating and involving youth in wildlife conservation and the wise stewardship of our natural resources.
In “Turkey-Hunter parlance” a Jake is a young or immature male turkey. But please let me dispel right here, that the JAKES program is wide open to all boys and all girls. In fact, the National Wild Turkey Federation is also our nation’s leader in getting as many girls and women into the out-of-doors through their Women in the Outdoors (WITO) program.
In our Valley, there are three National Wild Turkey Federation chapters. The Col-Mont Chapter covers Columbia and Montour counties and they’re very active in Youth Field Days at the Northern Montour and Orangeville sportsmen’s clubs. This chapter hosted a wonderful booth at Early Bird Outdoor Expo in Bloomsburg last month.
Also, the members of this chapter work alongside the White Deer Jakes Chapter to host WITO events. The SUN Chapter covers the Snyder, Union and Northumberland county area. You may visit with the members of this chapter today at the Cabin Fever Outdoor Show in Mifflinburg.
Coordinating all of the National Wild Turkey Federation activities in our area is a fellow with seemingly endless enthusiasm and energy named Walter Bingaman. He is the regional director for the federation and he is based in Shamokin Dam. He can be contacted for information about the JAKES program or to schedule a school or youth group presentation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Wild Turkey Federation has really ramped up their efforts to introduce more young people to nature through classroom-based resources, conservation training workshops for educators and hands-on events for children. Chapters can host educator training workshops, participate in conferences and curriculum development initiatives, place federation education boxes in schools and host hunting heritage programs.
These efforts are paying off in insuring that no child is left indoors. The JAKES program has expanded to now include JAKES Youth Field Days, Xtreme JAKES and JAKES Take Aim events.
Through these events, chapter members give young people chances to explore the out-of-doors through fun events that help pass on the traditions of responsible hunting while teaching the principles of habitat management, ethics and safety.