Focusing on children, the conservationists of tomorrow

Friday, July 08 2016 Written by
As LHIP interns, one of our goals includes trying to stimulate interest in National Parks among minorities, and specifically among Latinos. There are a variety of pathways one can pursue in trying to achieve this goal. One of the pathways I have decided to focus on, was focusing on the children in minority families. My reasoning is this: if you can plant that seed of interest in a child, it will only grow as they get older and mature into an adult. Not to mention, I think the old adage goes something like this: the children of today are the future of tomorrow. [caption id="attachment_6781" align="alignleft" width="730"]DSC_0037 An Eastern fence lizard basking on a large rock in the summer sun.[/caption] One way I am trying to reach out to children is through my multimedia work here at Pecos National Historical Park (PNHP). I was assigned to assist the park in taking resource images and editing videos that can be posted on their official park Facebook as well as their website. One of my ideas stemmed from my own childhood. I remember the excitement I felt when I was camping or walking on a nature trail and saw an animal. It didn't matter if it was as small as a rabbit, a quail, or a lizard. If I saw an animal, it turned the experience into a lasting memory. I figure that while the park's colorful history might not be a huge draw for small children, many might be interested in going because of the wildlife. I think an interest in seeing wild animals often transcends race, gender, and ethnicity. An NPS Comprehensive Survey from 2009 even found that Hispanic visitors, second after Asian visitors, were shown to participate the most in the activity of 'viewing or photographing animals or plants' in national parks. Seeing that statistic made me more hopeful that a video featuring wildlife could spark an interest in parks in at least one child. I took this idea out into the field and began to capture photos and videos of birds and lizards I knew were abundant in the park. It became clear that the most camera-friendly animal in the park was the Eastern fence lizard. I have since been working on editing a video featuring and offering facts about these pocket-sized modern 'dinosaurs'. [caption id="attachment_6793" align="alignleft" width="429"]DSC_0293 A large bee pollinates one of the park's flower bushes.[/caption] My other attempt at reaching young people is through my Latino Conservation Week event. My event was designed for children ages 5-10 and consists of a park-friendly scavenger hunt, which is more or less an exercise in nature identification. I found that some studies show that "spending time in natural environments as a child is associated with adult pro-environment attitudes and feelings of being connected with the natural world." Nature-oriented activities also offer other benefits to children such as "improvements in mental health and emotional regulation". I also looked at it as an opportunity for children to experience nature while participating in family time, which is important to many Latinos. Nonetheless, my hope is that this event will becoming a lasting memory for the children who attend, and that will in turn, motivate them to visit the parks again in the future.  
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