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Kick off Spring with 21 crazy fun ideas for you and your kids

 

Try these clever, creative, cool, and crafty ways to get the season going

 

By Mary Sears

Highlights for Children

Spring has sprung. Somewhere birds are chirping. Is it still chilly in your neck of the woods? Try these activities and the temperature won’t matter.

 

  1. Spruce up your footwear. Decorate plain white sneaks. Using paint pens, doodle your own designs or paint blue skies, wispy clouds, green trees, and lavender flowers.

 

  1. Watch nature in action. Tour your town or an area park looking for budding leaves, early blooms, and robins.

 

  1. Fashion a kids-only clubhouse with blankets tossed over a circle of lawn chairs. Serve lunch outside.

 

  1. Tie-dye T-shirts in soft pastels or wild primary colors.

 

  1. Collect rocks, paint them sky blue, leaf green, sun yellow, and cloud white. Display them indoors on the kitchen table, or outdoors around your mailbox or ringing a favorite tree.

 

  1. Tap your inner forester. Collect leaves from local trees, identify them, and make rubbings.

 

  1. Hang a bird feeder. Then keep it stocked with goodies for feathered guests.

 

  1. Spring clean to music to finish faster. Reduce your clutter by 30 odds and ends.

 

  1. Go fake camping. Grill veggie or turkey burgers outdoors, sing songs, and feast on s’mores. Sleep inside in a makeshift tent, or a sleeping bag, on the family room, living room, or basement floor.

 

  1. Learn birdcalls online. Instead of words, use your personal chirps to say hi to other family members.

 

  1. Play catch with water balloons (outside) . . . and keep a stack of beach towels handy for the inevitable explosions.

 

  1. Host a tea party outside on a blanket. Serve Rice Krispies treats in pastel colors (dye the marshmallows with a few drops of food coloring).

 

  1. Make a spring bouquet with tissue-paper flowers. Fold tissue paper back and forth in a fan effect; fold in half and secure with a chenille-stick ‘stem.’

 

  1. Anticipate the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Hose down your swing set, hammock, or porch swing now.

 

  1. Fly a kite, row a boat, or take up archery.

 

  1. Support your local Little League teams. Attend their games, wear the team colors, and donate oranges and water as refreshments.

 

  1. Decorate planters, using pinwheels instead of flowers, for an instant garden—no watering necessary!

 

  1. Organize a neighborhood stroller-wagon-bicycle parade on a Saturday morning. All wheels welcome!

 

  1. Satisfy a sweet tooth. Make springtime sundaes with vanilla ice cream, pastel sprinkles, and lots of whipped cream.

 

  1. Do your community a favor. Pick up trash in the park or join forces with your neighbors on spring clean-up day.

 

  1. Celebrate spring as they do in other cultures. The Russians eat pancakes; the Swedes light bonfires; the Japanese picnic when the cherry blossoms bloom. You can, too!

 

Mary Sears writes about homes, gardens, and families. She and her husband have one daughter

Fishing’s Future to conduct instructor certification class

 

Most of us have had a mentor at some point in our lives who inspired us, taught us, and delighted in our successes. It’s a wonderful thing, but not everyone is so lucky, especially when it comes to having an outdoor mentor. By becoming a volunteer certified angler instructor through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Angler Education program, you’ll not only have an avenue for sharing your passion for angling with others, but you too, could be someone’s mentor. To get you started, a certification course will be held from 2:30-5:30 in 2414 Throckmorton Plant Sciences Center at Kansas State University, on Monday, March 21. Visitors will need a parking permit.

 

Topics covered will include current fishing regulations, species identification, fishing ethics, equipment, knot-tying, casting, fish habitat, aquatic nuisance species, and conservation practices. In addition to becoming certified, anglers will also receive a sample curriculum and tips for preparing a class.

 

Participants must be 18 years old and pass a background check prior to certification. Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 can also take the workshop and gain Junior Assistant Angling Volunteer status. This age group must work with a certified instructor when hosting an aquatic education activity, clinic, derby or outreach.

 

To register for this class, and to learn more, contact Sid Stevenson, Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources at K-State by email, sstevens@ksu.edu, or phone at (785) 532-1405; or contact Phil Taunton at (620) 794-5373 or by e-mail at ptaunton7@gmail.com.

Westar Energy hosts young turkey hunters

 

Westar Energy invites any eligible youth to hunt turkeys this spring, April 1-12, at Jeffrey Energy Center, 7 miles north of St. Marys. The event is open to 12- to 17-year-olds who have not harvested a turkey. The project is supported by Westar Energy Green Team volunteers, who are veteran hunters and available to assist the young hunters and their mentors.

 

Youth must be accompanied by an adult mentor, preferably one who does not have turkey hunting experience. Hunters, mentors and guides will hunt from enclosed blinds around small crop fields scattered throughout Westar property, and turkeys are abundant.

 

Hunters should bring a shotgun, but no special clothing, calls or decoys are needed. Those 15 and younger will need to purchase a Youth Spring Turkey permit. Hunters 16 and 17 years old must have a hunting license, and Hunter Education certificate or if they don’t have Hunter Education, an apprentice hunting license, in addition to a Unit 3 Spring Turkey Permit.

 

Hunts will take place primarily in the mornings and on weekends, but weekday and afternoon hunts are possible, depending on volunteer guide availability. Registration will be open through Friday, March 18, or until all slots are filled. Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis with preference given to inexperienced hunters. Please contact Barb Cornelius at 785-575-8125 to apply or for more information.

 

The Westar Energy Green Team is a group of employees and retiree volunteers who take on environmental projects across Kansas. The group completes between 50 and 70 projects per year on weekends and evenings. The Green Team also collaborates with conservation groups, agencies and schools in enhancing and fostering an understanding of the Kansas environment.

Council Grove Area wants youth turkey hunters

 

Turkeys know it and turkey hunters feel it: spring is on the way. That means the Kansas spring turkey season opens soon and it’s time for the 16th Annual Council Grove Youth Turkey Hunt. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), in cooperation with area chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will host the Council Grove 16th Annual Spring Turkey Hunt on Saturday, April 2.

 

As part of KDWPT’s Pass It On program, this event is designed to provide beginning hunters with a safe and high quality spring turkey hunting experience. The event is open to youngsters age 11-16, who should be accompanied by a parent or mentor. Registration is required by March 21 by calling Brent Konen, Council Grove Wildlife Area manager, (620) 767-5900.

 

Young hunters will have the opportunity to become involved in not only the hunt but also its preparation. The evening before the morning hunt will be devoted to patterning shotguns and scouting hunting areas. On the morning of their hunt, hunters and their mentors will be guided to area locations on public and private land where encounters with these magnificent game birds are likely. Volunteers will arrange transportation to hunting sites and will be available to assist in the hunts. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and there will also be door prizes and a turkey hunting presentation. Hunters will experience a fantastic spring morning in the Flint Hills and share camaraderie with other participants and volunteers. If past hunts are any indicator, participants will have exciting stories of turkey encounters to tell.

 

Lodging is available in nearby Council Grove and camping is available at Council Grove Lake. Participants are encouraged to explore historic Council Grove, scenic Morris County and travel the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway while visiting the area.

‘Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors’ get kids playing outside again

 

By Cameron Gray

Opportunity Lives blog

NRA News

 

When we were kids in the 1970s and ’80s, the rule was go outside and play, and don’t come home until sunset. We rode our bikes all over town, explored the woods behind our houses, set up forts, and had the time of our lives. Today, sadly, kids don’t get outside that much and parents are increasingly afraid of letting them out of the house unsupervised. Government authorities have detained children walking to the park or playing a block away from home. Technology, especially video games, has kept kids indoors and sedentary.

 

Lately, however, there has been a concerted effort by organizations around the country to fix this problem, and to get kids out of the house. One of those groups is Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors.

 

Pass It On started in 1999 as a partnership between the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks and Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters. Kansas had just implemented the state’s first youth upland hunting season, and the Wildlife & Parks Department recognized a need for people to coax more children and teens outdoors for hunting and fishing. Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters hired Mike Christensen as director of outdoor mentoring in 2002.

 

“Big Brothers Big Sisters’ interest in setting up an outdoor mentoring program was seen as a way to attract more men to mentoring,” Christensen explained. “It was a win-win-win. Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks saw more kids getting outdoors, Big Brothers Big Sisters got more men as mentors and the kids got to go hunting and fishing with a positive role model.”

In 2006, Pass It On spun off from Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters, with Christensen left in charge of the program.

 

Pass It On has found that, typically, youth mentoring organizations have a standing list of kids who need or want a mentor. They are especially in need of men, as about three-quarters of waiting lists tend to be boys. Pass It On targets established outdoor organizations such as Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited to find men and women with an interest in sharing time outdoors with a child. Because safety is always crucial, Pass It On works closely with its partner organizations, who conduct background checks and manage the matches once they are made.

 

Christensen admits that it’s not always easy to get kids interested. “A couple of years ago, we had a young boy whose mom had to literally shove him out of her car when dropping him off for one of our events,” he recalled. “By the end of the day, he was all excited and couldn’t wait to go again. He had no idea what we were going to be doing that day. It was a day spent with the local bird dog club, who took everyone to a member’s ranch. We set up clay target shooting and the kids did some fishing. He was more than ready to go again.”

 

Pass It On takes kids on many and varied outdoor adventures, depending on the season. In the spring, it’s fishing, turkey hunting and shooting clays at the range. Summertime means fishing and target shooting. In the fall and winter, the mentors take kids deer, waterfowl, dove and upland hunting. Outings could be as small as one or two kids, or as large as 300 participants.

Christensen is proud of a new initiative, the First Hunt program, in which Pass It On offers a first hunt to new hunter education graduates.

 

“We take up to 20 new hunters at a time to the field, where we give them some shotgun instruction, and then have them ‘hunt’ for pheasants we’ve placed in bird launchers,” he explained. “This lets us conduct a very safe, controlled hunt for these new hunters, emphasizing what they have learned in the class. These First Hunt events are open to any and all new hunter education graduates.”

 

One of the many great things Pass It On — Outdoor Mentors sees is children and teens that continue with outdoor activities. Christensen says that the first boy he mentored, Dana, now hunts and fishes on a regular basis, taking his younger brother along with him on many occasions. Dana, along with other former participants, also volunteers to help mentor other kids, “passing it on.”

 

When Christensen asked about the nicest things he’s heard from people he has worked with over the years, he readily answers: “From the kids, ‘When can I go again?’ And we hear that a lot. Hearing that means that we did our job, providing a safe, memorable event and that they want more. The seed has been planted. Now we need to cultivate it! It doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.

 

“The kids get excited,” he added. “Their self-confidence grows. Their self-esteem is boosted. They see themselves in a different light having gone hunting and having spent time outdoors doing things that are way out of their comfort zone.”

 

Parents often say “thank you.”

“We really appreciate it when the parents see the positive changes to the kids from participating in these events,” Christensen said.

 

As for the mentors, Christensen said they often tell him they get more out of the program than the kids. “Mentoring a child can be a tremendously rewarding experience,” he said. “Getting to see the outdoors through the eyes of a child experiencing it for the first time is a truly neat and rewarding experience for the mentor.”

 

Pass It On covers all of the costs for the kids. The group asks the volunteers to cover any costs they may incur. Many of the kids they work with come from low-income families, and Christensen says they don’t want cost to discourage anyone from getting outdoors. Thanks to generous supporters, Pass It On can provide opportunities for kids who wouldn’t be able to participate otherwise.

 

But Christensen laments, “We never have ‘enough’ money. We use every penny we get to do as many events [and] activities as we can. Funding is always a struggle as I’m sure it is for most nonprofits. But we have a core of supporters who have been tremendous in their support of our efforts to get more kids outdoors. If we had more funds, we would be able to do more events and get more kids outdoors.”

 

If you want to help Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, you can do so in two ways:

 

1) Give your time. Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors is always in need of men and women willing to share their time outdoors with a child a couple of times a month. Any outdoors activity to share with a youngster is great, like taking them hunting and fishing, going to the range, going scouting, setting up tree stands and planting food plots.

 

2) Donate your money. “We desperately need financial assistance,” Christensen said. “The funds we raise are put to use hosting events, that give those new to the outdoors a chance to gain experience with the assistance of a mentor. We never have enough.”

 

If you would like to find out more about Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, and to donate, visit http://outdoormentors.org.

 

Cameron Gray is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Cameron_Gray.

Women and youth invited to celebrity pheasant hunt Dec. 12

 

Women and youth ages 11-16 are invited to the 18th Annual Youth and Women’s Celebrity Pheasant Hunt at Waconda Lake on Saturday, December 12 beginning at 7:15 a.m. This special hunt is geared toward providing a comfortable and positive hunting environment for new and inexperienced hunters. To be selected for one of the 40 slots available for this hunt, contact the Glen Elder Area Office at (785) 545-3345 by Thursday, December 3.

 

Event festivities will begin with a hunters’ breakfast in the Hopewell Church basement at Glen Elder State Park, followed by a pre-hunt safety discussion before participants are divided into hunting groups. Hunters, guides, and mentors will then head out to various refuge areas around Glen Elder Reservoir where only a very limited amount of hunting is allowed. Parties will hunt through the morning and early afternoon before breaking for lunch, courtesy of the Waconda Lake Association.

 

A unique aspect of this event is that participants will get to interact with and hunt alongside a few Hero-celebrities who have been invited to serve as hunting mentors. Event celebrities range from former professional athletes and TV personalities to military personnel who have recently returned from deployment.

 

In addition to field time, trap shooting stations will be set up for hunters wanting to refine their shooting skills.

 

All participants will receive a commemorative t-shirt, and each youth hunter will receive an additional gift courtesy of sponsors.

 

A hunters’ banquet will be held in the evening. All participants are invited to attend and will be asked to RSVP when they sign up for the hunt.

 

For more information or to volunteer as a mentor for this event, contact Chris Lecuyer at (785) 545-3345.

State competition tests students’ plant and animal knowledge

 

Think you know Kansas’ flora and fauna inside and out? Would you be willing to put your knowledge to the test? Seventy-nine students from 12 schools across the state did just that during the 17th Annual Kansas ECO-Meet State Finals competition on November 5, and the results were impressive. Held at the Camp Wood YMCA, near Elmdale, the ECO-Meet tested students’ knowledge via a wetlands and aquatic ecosystems test, invertebrates test, live plant scavenger hunt, and an interpretive event.

 

To compete at the state level, students had to qualify at one of seven regional competitions held in September and October at Milford Nature Center, Lakewood Discovery Center, Dillon Nature Center, Wilson Lake, Great Plains Nature Center, Southeast Kansas Education Service Center, and Ernie Miller Nature Center.

 

At the state competition, a total of 21 teams participated, along with six students who qualified as individuals in the two test events. Schools represented at the state competition included Clay Center, Goddard, Goessel, Inman, Maize, Miltonvale, Nickerson, Pike Valley, Pratt, Salina South, Shawnee Mission South, St. Mary’s-Colgan of Pittsburg, Tescott, Tonganoxie, Wakefield, and Wilson.

 

2015 Kansas ECO-Meet State Finals Results are as follows:

Overall Team

1st – Shawnee Mission South High School Team A: Megan Jenkins, Joe Petty, Kara Pringle and team coach PJ Born - $300/student scholarships awarded.

2nd – Goddard HS: Sarah Tomtschick, Clara Towey, Brooke Wentz, Brooke Wetta and team coach Marylee Ramsey - $200/student scholarships awarded.

3rd – Wilson HS Team A: Anna Criswell Aaron Dlabal, Trey Fink, Kyle Goldwater and team coach Melanie Falcon - $100/student scholarships awarded.

Individual Events

Invertebrates

1st – Joe Petty, Shawnee Mission South High School A - $200 scholarship

2nd – Kara Pringle, Shawnee Mission South High School A - $100 scholarship awarded.

Wetlands/Aquatic Ecosystem

1st – Joe Petty, Shawnee Mission South High School A - $200 scholarship

2nd – Aaron Dlabal, Wilson High School A - $100 scholarship awarded.

Westar Energy Green Team hosting youth deer hunt

 

The Westar Energy Green Team invites young hunters with little or no deer hunting experience to apply for special deer hunting opportunities. Hunts will be conducted at Jeffrey Energy Center, located 7 miles north of St. Marys, during the firearm deer season, Dec. 2-13. Hunts are open to youth 12 and older, and each young hunter must be accompanied by an adult mentor. Hunts will be held in the early morning or late afternoon. Slots will be awarded to applicants on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to those who have little or no deer hunting experience.

 

Youths will hunt from blinds led by volunteer, experienced hunters. Hunters are encouraged to bring their own rifle, but one can be provided if needed.

 

Every hunter must have a Unit 9 deer permit. Hunters 16 and older must also possess a hunting license and hunter education certificate.

 

An orientation session will be held on Saturday, Nov. 21. Organizers will instruct on safety and deer biology and assist hunters with sighting in rifles.

 

The Green Team’s annual youth deer hunts are designed to encourage youth interested in learning about hunting to give it a try. The hunts provide safe and fun hunting experiences in an area with an abundance of deer.

 

Applications will be accepted through Nov. 6 and successful hunters will be notified by Nov. 13. To apply, contact Barb Cornelius at 785-575-8125.

Youth pheasant and quail season prime opportunity

 

Two days, November 7-8, 2015, should be marked on every young hunter’s calendar. The youth pheasant and quail season allows all youth 16 and younger to hunt, under the supervision of an adult 18 or older, for pheasants and quail statewide. The daily bag limits during the youth season are 2 rooster pheasants per day and 4 quail per day. All state and federal lands normally open to public hunting are open, and all Walk-in Hunting Access lands are open. Hunting pressure is generally light, ensuring high-quality and productive hunting opportunities for youth.

 

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism established youth hunting seasons through Pass It On, the department’s hunter recruitment program. Special youth seasons are set for spring turkey, deer, waterfowl, pheasants and quail. The youth seasons open before regular season openers, giving young hunters first crack. Setting youth seasons separate from regular seasons allows mentors to work with young hunters without giving up their traditional hunts.

 

Resident youth 15 and younger do not need a hunting license, and while Hunter Education certification is not required when hunting under adult supervision, it is highly recommended. Sixteen-year-old residents and all nonresidents must have hunting licenses. The adult mentor may not hunt; however the youth season can provide a great opportunity to scout potential hunting areas and get dogs primed before the regular opener.

 

With improved pheasant and quail populations predicted this fall, the youth season will provide a fantastic opportunity to introduce a youngster to the hunting tradition. For many veteran hunters, that experience is more rewarding than the hunt itself.

Youth shooting sports clinic planned

 

Youth age 11-16 are invited to attend a fun and friendly shotgun and archery shooting and safety clinic on Saturday, October 24 at Council Grove Reservoir. This special event is part of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s “Pass It On” program and will provide participants with opportunities to enhance firearm and archery shooting and safety skills, in a controlled, safe environment. There is no cost to attend and all equipment, including shotguns, shells, bows, arrows, targets, and eye and ear protection will be provided. Youth need only a desire to learn and have fun. Interested youth must preregister by Oct. 20.  Students are not required to have completed a hunter education course, but prior completion is preferred.

 

The event will begin at 12 p.m. at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed (COE) area between Marina Cove and Neosho Park, approximately 0.25 miles west of the COE office at the west end of the dam. Check-in and a free lunch will take place from 12 p.m.-12:30 p.m., courtesy of the Flint Hills Chapter of Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation. Instruction will begin at 12:30 p.m. and will end approximately at 4 p.m. Participants will be provided with safety and shooting instruction by certified firearm and archery skills instructors, and teaching methods almost guarantee that students will be breaking shotgun targets by the end of the session.

 

Door prizes will be awarded, including a youth model .243 bolt action rifle with scope, donated by the Chisholm Trail Chapter of Safari Club International.

 

Additional event sponsors include the Bill Young Foundation and Morris County Hunter Education instructors.

 

For more information, contact Council Grove Wildlife Area manager, Brent Konen, at (620) 767-5900.