Cooler weather is making family outdoor play more enjoyable. But time spent outside with nature is good for your health and good for children's academic achievement as well.
A report from the National Wildlife Federation, "Back to School: Back Outside," (www.nwf.org) shows how outdoor education and time is connected with wide-ranging academic benefits including improved classroom behavior; increased student motivation and enthusiasm to learn; better performance in math, science, reading and social studies; and even reduced Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Even without documented research, it's plain to me that children (and adults) who spend time outside are healthier and more alert than those who spend time in front of the TV or playing video games. Sitting more and playing less is definitely a factor in our nation's obesity epidemic. Please consider these options.
Saturday, September 22, is the date for the General Land Office's Adopt-A-Beach Fall Cleanup. For 26 years, Texans of all ages have combed our Gulf Coast to pick up more than 8,300 tons of trash.
Volunteers come from across the state to keep Texas beaches beautiful. They record information about the source and type of debris collected, and the data has helped pass international treaties and laws aimed at reducing the amount of offshore dumping.
For complete information, please visit www.glo.texas.gov/adopt-a-beach or call 1-877-TX COAST (1-877-892-6278).
One of the hottest things going on in your Texas State Parks is geocaching, an activity that I was unfamiliar with until recently. Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt using a GPS unit or an app on your smartphone to help you find hidden "caches" placed by people all over the world.
Geocaches range from very small containers to large boxes. They can contain many different things, including a log book to sign your name, and tradable items for kids and adults.
For newcomers to geocaching, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPW) conducts special workshops at our state parks to introduce you to this activity. You may check for upcoming dates at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/calendar/geocaching. This family activity is healthy and fun. For complete information, visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/activities/outdoor_recreation/geocache/.
TPW's fall Texas Outdoor Family program is designed to teach you and your family the basic outdoor skills you need to enjoy a great overnight camping experience. Please see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoor-learning/texas-outdoor-family/.
Texas Outdoor Family workshops are hosted at state parks where your family receives hands-on experience learning basic outdoor skills. You will learn everything you need to enjoy the outdoors with your family, including setting up and breaking down camp, fire starting, and outdoor cooking.
Introductions to a wide range of outdoor activities are offered such as fishing, kayaking, or wildlife watching, depending on the site location and facilities.
No experience is necessary for any of these activities. You get all the help and advice you need from highly skilled outdoor specialists and trained volunteers.
For your and your family's health, I encourage you to go outside and have some fun.
This column was written by State Sen. Jeff Wentworth.