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In an attempt to get children outside and encourage new generations to help preserve nature, Missouri’s First Lady, Georgeanne Nixon, is helping to lead the state’s ‘Children in Nature Challenge.’ KSMU reporter Royal Yates spoke with the First Lady and learned more about what she hopes the program can achieve.
Governor Jay Nixon announced last week that Missouri state parks have had a six percent growth in attendance over the last year. This news was accompanied by more information about the Children in Nature Challenge, which was created by an Executive Order last month.
Missouri First Lady Georgeanne Nixon will help lead the efforts in the Children in Nature Challenge. She says she hopes the challenge will encourage parents and children alike to venture outdoors to learn more about the world around them.
“We realize that the outdoors is our ultimate classroom. We may, through a trip like that, encourage a botanist, a biologist, or perhaps the entrepreneur who sells the gear, but it’s a wonderful experience to get children out, so that’s what we’re encouraging right now.”
She says she feels personally tied to the challenge.
“I remember when my elder boy caught his first big bass and we fried it up right there on the gravel bar – those are the kind of memories that I think the whole family will always cherish, and I want other Missourians to be able to have that experience.”
The First Lady continued to say that the program isn’t necessarily seeking specific statistics or growth, but she hopes the challenge will help create long-lasting memories.
“Whether it’s going to a state park, or taking them outside and showing them the mystery of how a Marigold flower has seeds that can be saved for next year, it doesn’t have to be anything big and fancy. Just getting outside will cause us all to value these treasures that we have.”
The First Lady is urging Missouri communities to build local programs that expand upon existing state programs. The Governor also launched the State Parks Youth Corps last month, which will provide about 1000 young Missourians with summer jobs to help enhance Missouri’s state parks. He’s detailing that program this week.
However, there was no mention in the governor’s press release about how the new nature challenge will be funded. The Missouri Department of Conservation is experiencing one of the biggest budget cuts it’s ever had. The department is having to cut 7.5 million dollars from its budget and close 13 office facilities by July of next year.
For more information on the Children in Nature challenge, you can visit www.mo.gov.
For KSMU News, I’m Royal Yates.